The Downing Centre is a major Courthouse complex in Sydney
The Downing Centre combines; a Law Library, State Government Courts, Local and District Courts. The centre houses both courts services and sheriffs offices.
The Downing Centre is located in Sydney’s CBD on Liverpool Street, stretching between Elizabeth and Castlereagh Street’s.
The centre was originally a retail premises constructed in 1908 and designed by Arthur Anderson. The building was converted into courts in 1985.
The downing centre is accessible by many Train and bus services and is directly linked to Museum Station.
The types of criminal cases heard in Downing Centre District Court include:
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Our client is a 24 year old Laotian citizen from Homebush.
He was studying Law at the University of New South Wales.
A friend invited him to a housewarming dinner at an apartment.
The friend’s roommate and girlfriend were present at the dinner.
Two bottles of champagne were consumed by the four during the dinner, and a bottle of red wine was consumed as they played drinking games thereafter.
More alcohol was then purchased and the four kept drinking.
The host’s girlfriend later left the lounge room and made her way to the bedroom.
The host eventually joined his girlfriend, who was asleep on the bed.
The host later awoke to find his girlfriend sleeping on the floor wearing nothing but a towel.
The girlfriend then alleged that our client had entered the room, dragged her from the bed to the floor, sexually assaulted her and left while the boyfriend was asleep nearby.
Our client was in fact sleeping on the couch at the time.
He was confronted by the host and vehemently denied the allegations before leaving the premises.
Police were called and arrested our client a number of days later, then charged our client with two counts of sexual intercourse without consent (sexual assault) and two of assault with act of indecency.
Police had located a doona semen near where the complainant alleged the sexual assault occurred, and semen was found on the complainant’s perianal region.
Our client was refused police bail and his family sought our firm’s assistance.
We immediately made an application for bail in Burwood Local Court supported by lengthy submissions, which was granted.
The Crown relied on a range of material including an alleged DNA match between our client and the semen on the doona and the complainant’s perianal region, the statements of the complainant and host, relevant photos of the locations in the apartment and expert reports.
Our client was adamant that he did not commit the offences.
Our defence team meticulously reviewed the evidence. We engaged a forensic biologist to explain the presence of the DNA and a toxicology expert to comment on the effect of the complainant’s extreme level of intoxication.
The DPP was nevertheless intent on pursuing the case and it ultimately proceeded to a jury trial in Downing Centre District Court.
The extensive cross-examination of the complainant and her boyfriend revealed a range of significant inconsistencies, including discrepancies between their original statements and their evidence at trial.
It also raised scenarios regarding the presence of the DNA.
After some deliberation, the jury was unable to reach a verdict. The judge directed the jury that it could reach a ‘majority verdict’ of 11:1 but the jury was still unable to agree one way or the other. The judge therefore declared a ‘hung jury’ and the jury was discharged.
The matter proceeded to a re-trial in the same court.
In preparation for the re-trial of our client, we carefully reviewed the transcripts from the first trial and pinpointed further weaknesses in the Crown case.
We obtained further expert reports that were able to provide extra evidence about the possibility of DNA inadvertently been transferred through touching the same objects.
Our team was thereby able to raise further doubt regarding the accuracy of the DNA evidence and the complainant’s version of events.
The jury then came to a unanimous verdict of not guilty of all charges.
Our client is 31 year old man from Canley Vale in Sydney.
He was employed as a Premium Baccarat Croupier at The Star Casino.
Two men attended casino on several occasions over a 10 day period to play Premium Baccarat on the table our client was servicing.
The casino became suspicious of the activity on the table after observing the betting patterns of the two men, after each of their intermittent large bets allegedly invariably returned wins.
The casino arranged for the examination of CCTV footage which, it claimed, showed our client raising a few of the cards from the top and bottom of the deck and thereby revealing their values, then making hand signals to indicate whether or not to make a large bet.
The casino reported the information to the police and all three men were charged with 22 counts of fraud under section 192E of the Crimes Act 1900 and one count of participate in criminal group.
The total amount allegedly defrauded was more than $3.3 million.
Our client was adamant that alleged offences did not occur and his behaviour was consistent with the rules of the game.
As the DPP only served the allegedly ‘incriminating’ footage, we subpoenaed all footage of our client dealing over the course of his employment, painstakingly viewed all of that footage and prepared extensive material to suggest our client:
(a) on several occasions placed his hand on the side which the prosecution suggested would trigger a ‘large bet’, but that action did not result in such a bet being placed,
(b) our client’s style of dealing was to fan cards, and
(c) there was plentiful evidence that our client did not view cards when he dealt in that fashion.
We also subpoenaed extensive material from the casino to the effect that the manner of dealing was not against any rules or regulations.
The matter ultimately proceeded to a 7-week jury trial in Downing Centre District Court.
During the extensive cross-examination of prosecution witnesses, our team was able to systematically produce evidence which communicated the actual state of affairs to the jury.
Moreover, after all of the prosecution evidence had been given, our defence team tendered carefully drafted legal submissions to the sentencing judge in the absence of the jury to the effect that the prosecution evidence was incapable of establishing the essential element of ‘deception’ – as no deceived party had been identified. We asked the judge to direct an acquittal on that basis.
The submission was powerful and persuasive given recent decisions by the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal to the effect that a deceived party must be identified in order for an offence of fraud to be established.
The submission appeared to have caught the prosecution by surprise, as the Crown prosecutor tried to argue that the deceived party was The Star Casino. That submission was clearly inconsistent with the NSWCCA decisions which require a particular person or party to be actively deceived and a causal link to be established between the deception and financial advantage derived.
The judge agreed with our submissions and directed the jury to acquit each of the co-accused on all charges.
Our client is a 30 year old Truck Driver from the South Coast of NSW.
Police observed a car that was double parked in the middle of street in the Sydney CBD, which they claimed is ‘well known for drug use and supply’
They conducted a vehicle enquiry through their Mobipol system to obtain the registration particulars of the car.
The enquiry suggested the vehicle was registered to a family member of an organised crime group, and that the member was previously convicted of drug supply.
Police approached the vehicle and saw four individuals inside. The owner and his associate were in the front seats, and our client and a television presenter in the back.
Police questioned each of the occupants, and our client disclosed that he was in possession of a quantity of cocaine. They searched our client and located a large resealable bag of cocaine down the front of his pants, two small bags of cocaine in his wallet, nearly $5,000 in cash and two mobile telephones.
They arrested and conveyed our client to the police station, where he participated in an interview and made certain admissions.
One of the phones in our client’s possession contained messages indicative of drug supply. Our client told police that this phone did not belong to him, but to one of the other occupants.
Our client was charged with drug supply due to the quantity of drugs in the large resealable bag and contents of the phone messages, and with proceeds of crime for the cash found on him.
Our defence team undertook a considerable amount of work establishing there was insufficient evidence to prove ownership of the phone and gathering evidence regarding duress.
Duress is when a person commits an offence because threats are made against them to such an extent that a reasonable person in their position would comply.
The case ultimately proceeded to a jury trial in Downing Centre District Court.
Once evidence of duress was raised, the prosecution made submissions that a serious threat of violence could not be established as our client was aware of the presence of police nearby. It was further submitted that the text messages suggesting supply were from our client, as other evidence suggested he was indeed the sender of those transmissions.
Our cross examination of the prosecution witnesses, including expert witnesses, supported by documents gathered by the defence completely defeated the prosecution’s ability to negative the defence of duress. It was a systematic and complete dismantling of the prosecution case which meant we did not need to put our client on the witness stand to testify and face cross examination.
In the result, the jury returned verdicts of not guilty for both charges, and the alleged proceeds of crime was refunded to our client.
Our client is a 33-year-old employee at Woolworths, who faced several sexual assault allegations brought by a female work colleague. From the very start, our client vehemently denied ever having any sexual or inappropriate relations with the complainant.
16 separate sexual assault charges were brought by the prosecution, and our client was intent on defending all of them.
He saw another criminal law firm in Sydney who advised him that he would be found guilty if he defended the charges. Our client showed us a copy of the written correspondence to that effect. We disagreed with that firm's advice, as we quickly ascertained that there were glaring inconsistencies in a number of the complainant's statements, parts of which simply did not make sense.
The matter was ultimately listed for a jury trial in Downing Centre District Court, and the prosecution case centred around the complainant’s numerous statements to police.
Our defence team worked intensely to gather a range of materials via various lines of inquiry, including subpoenas, and prepared witnesses statements which discredited the complainant’s claims. That material was crucial in establishing the alleged incidents could not have occurred.
After extensive cross examination of the complainant at trial, the prosecution was left in a position where it was unable to establish a ‘prima facie’ case against our client for 10 of the charges. A 'prima facie' case is one where the evidence is capable of persuading a properly instructed jury that the defendant is guilty. The prosecution's failure to meet this test led the Judge to direct the jury to return verdicts of not guilty for those 10 charges part-way through the trial.
The defence then presented our case, by the end of which it was clear the complainant had fabricated the allegations for her own purposes.
After just 40 minutes of deliberations, the jury returned verdicts of not guilty for the remaining 6 charges.
Our three clients are all Indonesian nationals who were crew members aboard a ship headed for Australia.
The ship’s cargo-hold was altered to increase its capacity, containing a speed boat and dozens of ‘Prada’ bags filled with a total of over 600 kilograms of heroin.
The ship anchored approximately two kilometres from Australian shores, and the speedboat was ferried back and forth unloading the heroin-filled bags onto the mainland.
Unknown to the ship’s captain and crew, Australian authorities had been monitoring the operation and ultimately arrested all on board the ship.
The captain and officers were all convicted at trial. They were represented by other lawyers.
Six crew members faced a separate trial, with our team representing three of the men in Downing Centre District Court.
We advised our clients not to give evidence after the close of the prosecution case at trial, as the state of the evidence was that knowledge or recklessness had not been proved beyond reasonable doubt. They were ultimately found ‘not guilty’ of all charges.
The remaining three crew members - represented by other lawyers - each testified in court. They were questioned at length and ultimately found guilty. In our view, it was a significant strategic error to have exposed the men to cross-examination, given the weaknesses in the evidence at the close of the prosecution case.
Our client is a 39-year-old computer consultant and family man from Sydney’s western suburbs.
The family’s sleeping arrangements were that our client would sleep in a bedroom with his 7-year-old daughter, while his wife slept in another bedroom with their 4-month-old daughter.
It was not in dispute that on the day in question, our client and his daughter had been asleep when our client awoke and put his hands around his daughter’s throat and squeezed, preventing her from breathing. The child was eventually able to scream for her mother, who came to the room and rescued her.
Police were called and our client said, “I just tried to murder my daughter”. They asked “what do you mean by murder?”, to which he replied “I tried to kill her”. He further admitted trying to strangle her to death.
His wife told police he may be suffering from schizophrenia.
Police charged our client with three offences, the most serious of which was ‘intent to murder’, which carries a maximum penalty of 25 years’ imprisonment.
The law states that a person is not guilty of a crime if they were “labouring a defect of reason”, such as suffering from auditory hallucinations and delusional beliefs which caused them to be unaware that their actions were wrong. This is often referred to as the 'McNaughton defence'.
We referred our client to a prominent psychiatrist who confirmed the diagnosis of schizophrenia, and a number of matters relevant to his defence.
We requested withdrawal of all three charges on that basis, but the DPP refused to withdraw all of them, and the matter proceeded to a judge-alone trial in Downing Centre District Court.
Many criminal law firms brief 'wig and gown' barristers when serious cases are set-down for trial, but we are often able to avoid this due to the vast courtroom experience of our specialist lawyers - all of whom are Senior Lawyers with years of criminal defence experience. Our firm’s ability to independently represent clients to a very high standard in extremely serious cases sets us apart from many other law firms, and can save clients vast amounts in legal costs.
Our Senior Managing Lawyer conducted the trial independently, and our client was found not guilty of all charges.
After a person is acquitted due to mental illness, the judge must then decide whether they should be detained in a prison hospital, mental health facility hospital, or released with or without conditions.
Our senior lawyer was able to convince the judge that our client should be released on condition that he comply with a mental health treatment plan involving prescribed medication and regular consultations with his psychiatrist and psychologist. He is now getting the help he desperately needs, while attempting to mend his family relationship and move forward with his life.
Our client is a 41-year-old former business executive from Sydney who pleaded guilty to a complex $3.6 million fraud scheme.
Between 2008 and 2010, he and his co-offender submitted a large number of applications for finance to various companies on behalf of applicants. He presented himself to clients as being experienced in obtaining finance for businesses with poor credit situations.
Our client created false sales invoices, submitting them to credit providers along with completed applications signed by his clients.
Finance companies were thereby defrauded into providing credit for the purchase of non-existent office equipment using false sales invoices.
Our client and his co-offender retained commissions for the value of the loans, with the remainder being paid out to their clients.
Whilst a substantial portion of the loans were repaid in full, many clients defaulted on their loans, meaning that the credit providers were unable to recoup their losses.
Our client was originally charged with 156 counts of Obtaining Benefit by Deception, as well as Dealing with Proceeds of Crime (‘money laundering’).
Despite immediately admitting his involvement to police, our defence team was able to persuade the DPP to reduce the charges to just 5 counts of Obtain Benefit by Deception, with the Proceeds of Crime charge also being withdrawn..
Our lawyers left no stone unturned when preparing our client for his sentencing, obtaining reports, amending the agreed ‘facts’, obtaining various subjective materials and doing all that could be done to place him in the best possible light before the court – which was instrumental in differentiating his case from that of his co-offender.
Our Senior Lawyers were then able to persuade the Sentencing Judge in the Downing Centre District Court to impose a ‘suspended sentence’ and ‘community service’ – which means that our client avoids prison and can get on with his life.
His co-offender, who was represented by other lawyers, was sentenced to a minimum term of four years full time imprisonment.
Our client’s result is truly exceptional considering that those involved in such extensive fraud schemes almost invariably receive lengthy full time prison sentences.
One of our Senior Lawyers obtained a section 10 (no conviction) for a highly-publicised ‘aggravated break, enter and steal’ case heard at the Downing Centre District Court.
After a night out with some friends, our client, a 19-year-old man, was hanging out outside a clothing store with three other friends.
He leant against the door to the store, which incidentally opened as staff had forgotten to engage the security locks on the door to the shop.
Our client, along with two co-accused, then entered the shop and stole a number of items of clothing valued at around $1000.
Members of the public observed them leaving the store and reported the incident to police, who located the group a short time later in an alleyway along with the stolen clothing.
Our client was charged with ‘aggravated break and enter and commit serious indictable offence,’ which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment.
Statistics published by the Judicial Commission show that 65% of people charged with this offence in higher courts receive a sentence of imprisonment.
Undeterred by this, our senior lawyer worked tirelessly to obtain the best result for our client.
Following the break and enter, our client was held hostage in the Sydney siege late last year.
Understandably, this affected his mental health – however it also was a test of character for our client, who was commended for his ‘bravery and maturity’ during the ordeal.
Our senior lawyer was able to obtain a psychologist’s report to support our client’s case and prepared submissions which emphasised the appropriateness of a lenient penalty.
After lengthy verbal submissions on the sentencing date, the judge was ultimately persuaded to impose a ‘section 10 good behaviour bond’ despite the seriousness of the charge. This means that our client escapes a criminal record, which would have had a detrimental impact on his life and future.
The Judicial Commission statistics indicate that less than 1% of ‘aggravated break and enter and commit serious indictable offence’ cases dealt with in the higher courts over the past 7 years were finalised by way of a section 10 good behaviour bond.
In May 2013, our client pleaded guilty to Supplying a Commercial Quantity of Prohibited Drug and 3 counts of Possess Prohibited Drug.
He was given a two-year 'Suspended Sentence' and 3 x three-year 'Section 9 Good Behaviour Bonds' for those charges by the Presiding Judge in Downing Centre District Court. This was an excellent result given the seriousness of the charges.
However, in November 2014, he was found in possession of MDMA ('ecstacy') tablets and a quantity of cannabis, and charged with two counts of drug possession. Those charges caused him to breach his 'Suspended Sentence' and his 'Good Behaviour Bonds'.
In the lead-up to his court proceedings, our legal team gathered material supporting the assertion that our client had taken significant steps towards rehabilitation, but had found it difficult at times and relapsed.
In the result, the Presiding Judge was persuaded that there were good reasons to excuse the breach of Suspended Sentence. The breach was therefore excused and our client was given a fresh two-year section 9 good behaviour bond.
He therefore avoids prison and can continue in his efforts towards rehabilitation.
Our 37 year old client was charged with 'Sexual Intercourse Without Consent' and 'Assault with Act of Indecency' after it was alleged that, in early December 2013, he sexually assaulted a young lady on the corner of Riley and Ann Street, Surry Hills by forcing his finger inside her vagina and grabbing her breast as she was was walking from a nearby Hotel towards her home after a night out.
The incident was witnessed by a taxi driver who later gave a statement to the effect that our client resembled the assailant.
Our client was apprehended a few minutes after the alleged incident as he was driving from the area.
When pulled over, he 'appeared intoxicated' and was 'sweating profusely'.
Police asked what he was doing and he replied 'I was chased by a man' and 'what can you guys do for me?'.
He registered a high range p.c.a.. for which he was charged in addition to the sexual assault offences.
The case involved DNA evidence derived from swabs of the complainant's inner thigh and breast region.
The thigh swab contained DNA from two contributors - the major component was semen from consensual sexual intercourse between the complainant and her boyfriend, and the minor component was too small to produce a result.
Another criminal lawyer advised him that the DNA evidence should not be used at trial because it neither proves nor disproves the case against him, and is therefore not helpful to his case.
More than this, the lawyer's advice was that that the evidence might be detrimental to his case because, in light of the other evidence, the jury could infer that the minor component belonged to our client.
That lawyer came to an agreement with the DPP to leave all DNA evidence out of the trial.
The client then consulted our principal lawyer Mr U. Nedim for advice.
Mr Nedim quickly recognised that the 'agreement' between the existing lawyer and DPP was a critical error for the following reason:
Section 293 of the Criminal Procedure Act prohibits either party from using evidence of a complainant's prior sexual conduct, except in extremely limited circumstances.
Mr Nedim foresaw that this would present a significant obstacle for the prosecution because, in order for them to say that the major DNA component was from sex with the boyfriend, they would have adduce evidence of the complainant's past sexual conduct, which is impermissible under the law.
The legal argument came before the Presiding Judge in Downing Centre District Court and lasted more than a day.
After heated submissions by both sides, the Judge agreed with our argument and
(1) allowed the evidence that our client was excluded as the major contributor, and
(2) prohibited the prosecution from raising evidence that the major contributor was the boyfriend.
This left the prosecution in a position where the jury would hear that our client was positively excluded as the major DNA contributor after he allegedly assaulted the complainant whilst 'sweating profusely' just a few hours before she was tested.
The prosecution acknowledged that this was fatal to its case and withdrew both sexual assault charges.
This is yet another example of how superior legal knowledge and strategy can make all the difference in serious criminal cases.
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