About going to court
About going to court pamphlet [PDF 210KB]
About going to court
When you’ve been arrested by the police for an offence, you will usually be charged and told to appear in the Childrens Court. The police can give you a court date straight away, or you might be served a legal document (called a ‘summons’) telling you the date and time to appear in court.
If the police decide to hold you in custody overnight (usually at the Bimberi Youth Justice Centre), your court appearance will be on the next court sitting day (any day except Sunday).
If you are not held in custody, it’s very important that you turn up for your court appearance on time. You can be arrested if you don’t appear and things could become more serious for you.
About the Childrens Court
Childrens Court is for people who have been accused of, or pleaded guilty, to doing a crime as a child or young person (this means under the age of 18). If you have adult charges that are being dealt with at the same time, sometimes these can all be heard in the Magistrates Court.
Childrens Court is a ‘closed’ court. This means people from the public are not allowed to attend (unless they have permission from the Magistrate). It also means the media cannot say anything that might identify you.
If a crime is serious, you will go to the Supreme Court. Your lawyer will tell you if this is something the court is considering.
Having a lawyer
If you are going to court for the first time, there is a ‘duty’ lawyer at the court who can help you with your case. Sometimes a decision about your matters will be made at your first court appearance, but usually you will appear briefly and the court will decide that your case needs to come back at a later date to be heard. This is called ‘adjourning’ your case. When this happens you will need to arrange your own lawyer.
There are a few ways to get a lawyer. You can hire one through a private law firm or you can apply to Legal Aid or the Aboriginal Legal Service (phone numbers are on the back).
Remember: If your matters have been adjourned you should arrange a lawyer as soon as possible. Your matters can be heard without a lawyer if the court decides you have been given enough time to find one.
Help and support for you in court
Going to court is a serious thing and it can help to have someone there to support you. The law says that anyone who is a parent or guardian of a young person going to court must attend court when the young person does.
So your mum, dad or carer should go with you.
Remember: If you have other support people that you would like in the Court room you must let your lawyer know so they can ask permission from the Magistrate. Sometimes they may not be allowed inside the Court room, but there is a space for them to wait for you when your case is finished.
Who’s who in the Childrens Court room?
The picture above shows ‘who’s who’ in the court room and where they usually sit.
1 The Magistrate is the person in charge who can decide what happens with your case.
2 The Magistrate’s Associate helps with jobs like keeping court records up-to-date.
3 The witness stand is where a witness will be when they are giving evidence about your case.
4 The prosecutor tells the Magistrate about the crime/s you have been accused of and why they think you committed them.
5 The lawyer is your legal representative. They sit beside you and give you legal advice about your case, like whether to plead guilty. They will also talk to the Magistrate on your behalf, but sometimes the Magistrate will ask you directly for information.
6 The defendant is you. Usually you will talk to the Magistrate through your lawyer.
7 The Court Liaison Officer is someone from Child and Youth Protection Service. They will talk to the court about their involvement with you.
8 Public gallery 1 is for people that work for the justice system, like the police, YJ or any witnesses being called by the prosecutor.
9 Public gallery 2 is for people involved with defending or supporting you, like your family, your support people and any witnesses for your case.
Things you need to remember about court
There are some things you must remember when you enter the court room. You should:
- arrive before your court time and wait outside to be called into court
- turn off your phone
- take off your hat or beanie
- not chew gum
- show respect to the court by calling the Magistrate ‘Your Honour’ and bowing as you enter the court room.
How does the court decide your sentence?
If you are found guilty, the court will consider many things when deciding what sentence to give you. Sometimes a case manager at Child and Youth Protection Service will write a ‘pre-sentence report’ about your situation. This helps the court to decide what sentence to give you. If you were under 18 when you committed the crime, the court considers things like:
- your chances of rehabilitation
- how responsible you are for the crime
- your past and current situation
- type of crime and criminal history
Where is the Childrens Court?
The Childrens Court is at:
4 Knowles Place, Canberra City*.
(*A map on the back shows you how to get to court and to the Child and Youth Protection Service at 11 Moore Street, Canberra, in case you are given supervision
For questions about your legal matters, call*:
Aboriginal Legal Service 6249 8488
Legal Aid 6243 3411
Youth Law Centre 6173 5410
Child and Youth 6207 1069
(*available weekdays, 9am to 5pm)
For help or advice after hours, call:
After-hours crisis and Bail Service 1300 556 279
(available weekdays, 5pm to 2am or weekends and
public holidays, 4pm to 2am)
Freecall 1800 178 277
For questions about your court date and time, call:
Childrens Court Registry
(available weekdays, 9am to 4:30pm)