Why do I have to go to court?
You have been charged with breaking the law. The police should have given you a summons or a charge sheet with details of the charge, and where and when to go to court.
Do I need a lawyer?
Yes. A lawyer can:
- explain to you what you have been charged with
- explain to you about what the police have to prove in court
- give you advice about whether to plead guilty or not guilty
- listen to what you say and speak for you in court, and
- answer your questions about what the magistrate says.
Even if you think your case is easy, and even if you have been told you don’t need one, you should see a lawyer as soon as possible.
Your lawyer is there for you. What you say to your lawyer is confidential - they won't tell anyone else if you don't want them to.
Where do I get a lawyer?
Victoria Legal Aid provides specialised services for children and young people who have to appear before the courts or who are involved in legal cases. Free legal advice is available at all offices. Duty lawyers are at all Children’s Courts in Melbourne and on mention days at all other Children’s Courts in Victoria. Duty lawyers can give advice and represent people who have not had the opportunity to see a lawyer before going to court. Phone them on (03) 9269 0234 for your nearest Legal Aid office.
Youthlaw is the Young People’s Legal Rights Centre, a free legal service for young people in Victoria. Phone them on (03) 9611 2412.
Telephone the Law Institute of Victoria on (03) 9607 9550 to find a private lawyer close to you who knows about the Children’s Court.
Aboriginal people can contact the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service on (03) 9419 3888.
For more information see Legal Help.
What if I don’t turn up at court?
If you are on bail or charged with a serious crime the court may issue a warrant so the police can arrest you and bring you to court.
If you are charged with a less serious crime, the magistrate may make a decision without you being there.
If you know you can’t go to court you should speak with your lawyer as soon as possible.
Who can be in court when my case is heard?
Anyone. The court is open to the public, but nobody is allowed to publish information about the case which could identify you.
If there is someone you don’t want in the court, talk to your lawyer about it. The magistrate may agree that the person should leave the court but it's the magistrate’s decision.
You should try to have your parents, or an adult who knows you well, with you in court.
On the day
Get to court at least half an hour before the time on your Summons or Bail Notice. Go to the counter and tell the registrar that you have arrived.
Your lawyer will meet you at the court and go over the details of your case before the hearing. When your name is called you will go into the courtroom. You sit behind your lawyer.
If you are pleading guilty the prosecutor (a specially trained police officer) will read out the story from the police point of view. Then your lawyer will tell the magistrate about you and explain your side of the story.
The magistrate might put off your case and ask for a report from the Youth Justice workers from the Department of Human Services or the Children’s Court Clinic.
Once the magistrate has read the reports and heard everything your lawyer has to say, they will decide what penalty to give you.
Will the case be finished the first time I go to court?
If you plead guilty:
If the charges are not very serious your case will probably be finished on the first day.
If the charges are more serious your lawyer may ask for your case to be put off so they can prepare for the case.
The magistrate may put the final hearing off and ask Youth Justice workers or the Children’s Court Clinic to prepare a report.
If you plead not guilty:
Your case will be put off to a contest mention hearing. If it is still not sorted out it will be put off again.