There are a number of reasons why you might be required to appear at court. If you have been told you need to attend Downing Centre Court, it could be because you have been charged with an offence. Alternatively, you might be a witness, or on the jury for a criminal case.
Downing Centre Court is a local and district court, and it deals with a wide range of legal matters, including civil cases, criminal cases and AVO applications. As the court is generally busy, it is important that you leave yourself plenty of time to travel to the court, and find out which courtroom your matter has been assigned to.
If you are appearing in a criminal trial in which you are the defendant, you will need to turn up in person – unless the court has excused you. In some cases, you might be able to file a written note of plea. This is generally possible if you have received a penalty notice asking you to appear at court.
Your first court appearance will be where you are asked to state whether you plead guilty or not guilty to the charges against you. It is a good idea to seek legal advice before you make a decision as to how to plead, as this can have serious implications for the outcome of your case. If you decide to plead guilty, the matter will generally be finalised that day. If you decide to plead not guilty, it will be adjourned for a period of time so that you and your lawyer, and the prosecution, can both prepare arguments.
If you are a party in a civil trial, you might be able to provide evidence by telephone but this needs to be weighed carefully as it can be against your best interests. If you are due to appear in a civil trial for the first time, you and your lawyer will need to let the magistrate or judge know what orders you want to be made.
If you are involved in an AVO matter, you will need to attend Downing Centre Court on the date specified. If you are the defendant, you will be asked whether you agree or disagree to the AVO being made against you. If you agree, the matter will be finalised that day, and if you disagree, an interim order is generally made, and another date will be set for witnesses to give evidence and for you to argue your case.
If you have been called as a witness in a criminal or civil case, you have to attend or you can be arrested.
In some cases, you might be able to provide evidence remotely, from another room in the courthouse, particularly if you are considered to be vulnerable, or at risk if you give evidence in person. The Downing Centre has designated areas where witnesses can wait to be called. When it is your turn, you will be asked to swear an oath or affirmation, and then you will be questioned by the defence and the prosecution in the case.
Whatever the reason for your court appearance, it is important to try to remain as calm as possible. Going to a large court complex such as Downing Centre Court (www.downingcentrecourt.com.au) can be overwhelming, so it might help to bring a support person with you, or make sure your lawyer talks you through the process beforehand, so you can feel more confident.