Going to court, especially for the first time, can be confusing and you may be nervous. The best way to make sure you are prepared for court is to be organised.
Before the hearing you should:
You can either represent yourself at court, or you can get a private solicitor. You should arrange to get some legal advice as soon as possible, as it may take some time before you can see or speak to a lawyer.
You may be able to get legal advice from:
Before the hearing you should make sure you prepare your case and gather all the evidence you want to use to defend your case.
You can use all sorts of evidence at the hearing, including photographs, diagrams, In Car Video (ICV) and closed circuit television (CCTV) footage. You should give yourself plenty of time to get photos or look at videos.
If you want to use electronic evidence, such as videos or sound recordings, you should contact the court as soon as possible before the hearing to make sure that the equipment you need is available on the day.
For more information, see
When you present your evidence to the court, the court will decide whether that evidence is 'admissible'. For more information about admissible evidence, see
Sometimes you or the defendant may need to ask the court to postpone the hearing to another date. This is called an 'adjournment'.
The magistrate may not agree to this unless there is a good reason. There may be an adjournment if either you or the prosecutor, or an important witness, has a good reason for not being able to make it to the hearing.
If the magistrate does agree to an adjournment, they will often make a costs order against the party who needed the adjournment. For more information, see
Costs in fine cases.
It is often very difficult to get an adjournment on the hearing day. You should file an
Application to vacate a hearing date as soon as you know you need an adjournment.
You may be able to get some of the evidence you want to rely on yourself or you may have to ask the prosecutor. In some cases you may need to issue a 'subpoena' (pronounced supeena). A subpoena is an order from the court to a person (or organisation) to bring documents to court or attend court to give evidence on a certain date, or both.
Step by Step Guide: Subpoenas - Step by step guide.
You should take the following things with you to the hearing:
You may also want to take some character references with you, in case you are found guilty and the magistrate has to decide whether to fine you and the amount of the fine.
Instructions: Instructions for preparing a character reference.
Sample: Sample character reference.
You should take the original and three copies of any documents, for example character references, you intend to show the court. The original will be kept by the court. You will need to give one copy to the prosecutor, keep one for your records and have a spare.
When you are at the hearing, the prosecutor will try to prove beyond reasonable doubt that you committed the offence. They will not usually have to prove that you intended to commit the offence, only that you did it. This is referred to as 'strict liability'.
For some offences, the use of photographic or other documentary evidence will be enough to prove that you committed the offence. For example:
To successfully defend these sorts of cases, you would have to show that there is other evidence that raises some doubt about the prosecution's case.
Before you go to court, you may want to write down the main points you want to try to explain to the magistrate. This may include:
If you are not confident speaking in the courtroom, you can write what you would like to say in a letter and hand it up to the magistrate. The magistrate may ask you questions about the information you have included in the letter.
You could practice speaking to the magistrate with one of your friends or relatives. You could also go to a local court and watch some hearings. If you telephone the court, you can find out the dates and times that hearings are held. Courts are open to the public (except if a case involves a child) and you can sit in the public area at the back of any court and watch.