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Dangerous dog

Your precious pooch may be nothing but perfect in your eyes but your neighbours, local council or police may not see it this way.

In NSW, a dog is classified as dangerous if it has, without provocation, attacked or killed a person or animal.

But as of last year, dogs who display unreasonable aggression towards a person or another animal – even if they have never actually attacked – can also be classed as dangerous or menacing.

What can I do if my dog has been declared dangerous or menacing?

Authorised officers (employees of the local council) or a local court can declare a dog to be dangerous or menacing. If your pet has been found to be dangerous under the laws of another State or Territory under corresponding legislation, then it can also be considered dangerous or menacing here.

An authorised officer or council should have notified you if they are planning on declaring your dog dangerous or menacing.

When notice is given of the intention of the authorised officer’s intention to declare the dog dangerous, you must ensure that:

  • when the dog is away from where it is ordinarily kept that it will be under the control of a competent person and held by a chain, leash, cord or similar
  • when the dog is away from where it is ordinarily kept that it has a muzzle fixed securely over its mouth to prevent it biting anyone or other animal
  • when the dog is in the place it is ordinarily kept it must be restrained so as to prevent it from attacking or chasing a person lawfully on the property
  • register the dog – which includes microchipping – (if it is not already registered) within seven days of receiving the notice

These restrictions stay in place for 28 days after notice was given or until the authorised officer tells you whether or not your dog has been declared dangerous.

Note that a dog will not be deemed as under effective control if a person has more than 2 dogs (and at least one of them is potentially dangerous) in their control at the same time.

If you fail to comply with these requirements you could get a $5,500 fine. In addition, you could risk your dog being seized if the authorised officer is not satisfied that you are meeting these requirements.

What if I want to contest the order?

If you do wish to object to a dangerous dog order, you must do so in writing, to the authorised officer within seven days of receiving the notice, which states the council is considering declaring your dog dangerous.

Those who make vexatious and frivolous claims against dogs can be penalised.

If you don’t complain within the seven-day time frame, the authorised officer has the right to go ahead and declare your dog dangerous.

But if you do make a complaint, the authorised officer is obliged by law to consider your application.

After your application has been considered, the authorised officer will notify you of their decision. If they find your dog dangerous, you can appeal that decision, but will need to comply with the requirements in the meantime.

If it is found that your dog has been declared a dangerous dog, you must make sure that you comply with the following requirements:

  • The dog must be desexed
  • The person in charge of the dog must be at least 18 years old
  • When it is on the property where it is usually kept the dog must be in a suitable enclosure
  • Children must be prevented from having access to the dog
  • It must wear a collar at all times
  • When outside the enclosure the dog must be under the control of a competent person and on a chain, cord or leash and be muzzled

If the dog attacks anyone, is lost, kept in a different place or dies, you must notify the council.

A declaration can be revoked, if you apply after 12 months, and if it is appropriate, and if it is necessary, for example if your dog has undergone appropriate behavioural training.

If the revocation is not granted, you can appeal in local court within 28 days of receiving notice from the authorised officer or council. But during this time frame you must still comply with the requirements.

Courts have the power to order your dog to be ‘destroyed’ – or they may authorise measures that will lead to the dog being less of a threat such as de-sexing, behavioural training or other types of training associated with responsibly pet ownership.

If may be ordered to be destroyed if you dog attacks or bites an animal without provocation or if you don’t comply with the requirements of keeping a dangerous or menacing dog.

However a destruction order can only be given if the court is satisfied that permanently removing the dog from its owner would not be enough to protect the public.

Non-compliance with the destruction order could cost you $11,000.

For many of us, our pets are part of the family. If you are in a situation where you are worried about the fate of your pet in relation to a dangerous or menacing dog order, getting advice from a law firm experienced in dangerous dog cases is essential.

Having qualified professionals fighting on your behalf ensures that you will get the best possible outcome for you and your dog.

Goat wearing a bow tie

Downing Centre Local Court may just be a humble local courthouse but its magistrates have presided over many cases involving big names, or unlikely characters.

While most of those whose names grace the criminal part of the local court list are there for minor misdemeanours and less serious charges, many an interesting case has been decided, or at least commenced, within its walls.

It was the courthouse where former judge Marcus Einfeld first argued that his speeding ticket was acquired by a friend – and almost got away with it.

Had it not been for two vigilant journalists who followed the case and then researched who Teresa Brennan was to check the spelling of her name, it is very possible that this judge’s lie would never have come to light.

After they found out she had died, the case hit the press. Soon everyone in Australia knew that instead of paying a $77 fine and losing three demerit points, Einfeld chose to tell the court first that his US-based (and dead) friend Theresa Brennan was actually driving his car. After he was confronted with the fact that she was dead, he claimed it was another US-based (and unfortunately, also deceased) Teresa Brennan who had been responsible.

His very public trial and two year stint in Silverwater Jail demonstrated once and for all, if nothing else, that if you are going to cover up your own misdemeanours, it is a good idea to check that the person (and especially not two) that you intend on blaming isn’t actually dead first.

Although the bar association struck him off as not a ‘fit and proper person’ this former judge, once dubbed a ‘national living treasure’ can retire on the comfortable tax-payer funded pension to the tune of $184,000 – apparently no one setting up the scheme had thought that a judge would end up a common criminal.

Einfeld is, however, not the first judge to appear on the other side of the bench in the Downing Centre courthouse – back in the late 1990s, New South Wales District Court judge came before the court on child sex charges but the case was later dropped.

A more unlikely suspect appearing on the Downing centre’s local court list last year, and on a decidedly more trivial charge, was Garry, a goat.

The case hit the papers, and the charge was as follows: eating flowers in central Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art.

Garry came dressed in his finest for his day in court, sporting a colourful stripy hat and a black bow tie.

The magistrate showed clemency and dismissed the $440 fine, as she couldn’t find the requisite intention of vandalising vegetation.

Gary’s lawyer said that the police issued the wrong infringement notice, because it didn’t relate to goats, but people, and there was no way it could be proved that his owner had put him up to it.

More recently to hit the news is the star of TV show Hey Dad! Robert Hughes who appeared before the Downing Centre court earlier this year and was convicted of nine counts of sexual and indecent assault that took place back in the 1980s.

After the 29-day trial ended, Hughes was found guilty. The 65 year-old actor has been sentenced to jail for 10 years and nine months full term with a 6 year non-parole period. The non-parole period is the time Hughes must spend in prison before being eligible to apply to get out on conditions (parole). Contrary to popular views, there is certainly no guarantee that parole will be granted after 6 years.

And nor is the court reserved just for dealing with the aftermath of crimes – it has seen some action one spectator likened to a ‘football match.’ One recent case to hit the local court list ended in an out and out brawl between police and a family, three of whom featured on the Downing Centre Local Court list that day, accused (and convicted) of brawling with police outside their Bankstown home.

The Downing Centre is definitely not a local court that could be called ‘boring’!

Domestic abuse

If you have been served with an application for an Apprehended Violence Order (AVO) it can be stressful and you may not be sure what to do next.

AVOs can be made by police (called a ‘police application’), or by the person who wants the protection of an AVO (called a ‘private application’).

AVOs are supposed to protect people who have a fear of assault, harassment, threats and interference. But sometimes they are misused for all kinds of inappropriate purposes like revenge, a strategy to strengthen other proceedings, extend or gain visas, gain advantages against former landlords or tenants or other vexatious or frivolous purposes.

According to the law, the court cannot impose an AVO for any reason except to the extent that it is necessary for the safety and protection of the protected person and any child affected by the conduct of the defendant.

This means that if you intend on defending an AVO, the police or applicant will have to prove that on the balance of probabilities that the applicant has reasonable grounds to fear that the other person will intimidate, stalk or commit a violent offence against them.

This fear must be reasonable in the circumstances and the conduct must be serious enough to warrant the issuing of an AVO.

You should consider whether the applicant can prove there is a need for an AVO to be made.

Also keep in mind that a child of the protected person is usually automatically included as a protected person, so consider if this could affect your children.

Depending on how you are planning to respond (whether you agree with the application or not) will depend on your course of action.

If you intend on defending an AVO against police or a private applicant, you have the following options:

  • Go to the mention (the first hearing of the case)
  • Ask for an adjournment (in order to get more time to prepare your case)
  • Ask for a change of venue (if the court where the mention is held is far away)
  • Make a cross application (if you also have fears about the person who lodged the application)

The NSW LawAssist website contains detailed information on what to do in each of these situations.

When the court is making an order they will consider the safety and protection of any person seeking the order as well as any child who might be affected by the defendant in the application. The court will look at:

  • If the order would prohibit or restrict access to the defendant’s residence – the effects and consequences on the safety of the protected person and any children living at the residence;
  • Any hardship that may be caused by making or not making the order especially to the protected person and any children;
  • The accommodation needs of all parties but particularly the protected person and any children; or
  • Anything else the court considers relevant

The court can refer an applicant to mediation in some circumstances but not when:

  • There is a history of physical violence by the defendant to the applicant;
  • The protected person has been subject to conduct of the defendant constituting a personal violence offence;
  • The protected person has been subject to conduct by the defendant constituting stalking or intimidation with intent to cause fear or physical harm;
  • The defendant has behaved in a way that constitutes harassment to the applicant’s race, religion, homosexuality, transgender status, HIV/AIDS infection or disability; or
  • There has been a previous attempt at mediation in relation to the same matter and it was unsuccessful.

If you have been served with a copy of an application of an AVO against you, and the police are the applicants, they may want to talk to you about what you want to do before the case is heard in court.

You should be very careful in what you say to the police officer (or Domestic Violence Liaison Officer) because anything that you tell them may become evidence in court and could be used against you. It is best to only tell them whether or not you agree to the AVO being made, without discussing other details about what happened, or your side of the story.

An AVO lasts for 12 months or as determined by the court, but it may be withdrawn or varied by the applicant. Remember that if you knowingly contravene an order, is an offence and carries the penalty of up to 2 years in jail and/or a large fine.

It is possible to represent yourself when defending an AVO against police or another applicant, but you may like to speak with an experienced lawyer who can go through your options with you because of the serious consequences that an AVO can have.

Police

In March this year, the tables were turned at the Downing Centre Local Court. This time, it was a former policeman who had to appear before a magistrate on charges of giving false evidence.

Former Northern Rivers senior police officer Shane Diehm was charged with giving false evidence during private hearings in 2011, along with several other officers.

After 10 adjournments, his case was heard on March 24. Footage was played in the courtroom, showing a motel party for the retirement of former Detective Superintendent John Alt. The police partied unaware that they were being filmed.

The Police Integrity Commission, which had its suspicions, had already arranged for the Queensland Crime and Misconduct Commission to put video surveillance video cameras in two Gold Coast hotel rooms before the party took place. There were suspicions that drugs were being obtained for the party.

This footage was central to the undercover investigation of drug use amongst Northern NSW police.

One of these rooms had been paid for by Diehm, a former Tweed/Byron inspector and other guests were police and former police, according to phone taps.

While his defence team admit he was at the party, they deny he was the one heard saying, in an alleged discussion about drugs “it takes three f***king months to get out of your system.”

In the initial hearing, Diehm arrived at the Court supported by his family. During the hearing, he was seen taking notes and shaking his head repeatedly as excerpts of the video from the night in question were played.

Another Tweed police officer was cleared of offences relating to the night in question. He was found not guilty of five counts of giving false or misleading information.

Diehm had a separate hearing and is expected to return in June.

For Diehm who was once one of the most senior police officers on the Northern Rivers, this was not the first run-in he has had with the law: he was discharged from the police force in 2012 following an alleged positive result to cocaine at a party in Sydney and was investigated during a targeted investigation of drug use in police ranks.

To read more about Diehm’s March trial, click here.

He is not the only police to be hitting the news for misbehaviour related to Downing Centre.

In April, level four of the Downing Centre actually saw a commotion described by one witness as ‘a football match,’ as dozens of police were involved in a public brawl with a family who were themselves on trial for brawling with police.

After three of the Mehanna family members were convicted of affray, resisting arrest and assaulting police during a fight outside their Bankstown home, the case was adjourned for sentencing.

The fight broke out as the family left the courtroom. One police officer was smacked in the face as one of the family members kept screaming, “this is police brutality!”

The riot squad was called and one member of the Mehanna family was taken into custody.

Police misbehaviour is not just confined to the Downing Centre.

Earlier this year the Daily Telegraph reported the surprising statistic that one in every 40 serving police officers in the state has committed an offence (which equates to about 2.5%, or 437 officers in total).

This is up 230% over the past 5 years, although one police expert said that this is probably due to Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione cracking down on police misbehaviour and a focus on the police force prosecuting their own, rather than an actual increase of bad behaviour.

And while some NSW police chiefs may let their officers quietly resign when they were facing the courts, Scipione leaves any officers under him charged with an offence to face the criminal justice system.

Lawyer

If you have received a Court Attendance Notice to attend Downing Centre Local Court for a criminal matter, you may have decided that you don’t need a lawyer or simply can’t afford one. Not everyone can afford an expensive lawyer, or is eligible for Legal Aid.

Many people who have their cases heard in the Downing Centre choose to represent themselves and many have been successful.

If this is the case, there are a number of things you can do to prepare yourself for your trial. Dress smartly, but there is no need for a suit and tie.

Be on time but also be prepared to do a lot of waiting.

All the people who have cases to be heard on a particular day will be requested to turn up at the beginning of the day, and the judges will generally just go down their lists.

This might mean your case is not heard for a few hours. When the magistrate is ready to hear your matter, your name will be called by a court officer.

Do not take a pocket knife, scissors, tools or anything that could be considered a threat with you – in any case, this will be picked up by the security scanners upon entry to the courthouse.

If however, an item is taken from you when you enter the courthouse, you will be able to collect it when you leave.

It may be a good idea to bring along some character references along with you, as well as any other documents (or a witness) that you think are relevant to your case.

This could include medical reports, receipts, letters, photographs, video footage or anything else that you would like to present as evidence.

It is also a good idea for you to write down what happened in your own words, particularly when the events are still fresh in your mind. You can also bring a friend or family member with you for support.

If, after you arrive at court you feel that you would benefit from some legal advice, you may still be able to get some free legal advice and even representation in court on the day of your trial.

There will usually be a duty solicitor or duty barrister available most days of the week, staying either the whole of the day, or sometimes just the mornings.

The duty solicitor is available to help people who are due to appear in court.

The office is located on Level 5 (not, as the sign in the lift says, on Level 4) and anyone who needs legal advice for an upcoming trial can apply for help. Duty solicitors usually deal with criminal matters, but you may inquire about civil issues too.

The free legal service operates on a roster where both large firms and individual practitioners volunteer their time on a monthly basis. There are no appointments so it is best to get in as early as you can, as sometimes these services are very popular!

A duty solicitor or barrister may help you in a number of ways including the following:

  • Asking the police prosecutors to get the facts amended if you do not agree with everything in the police version of the account
  • ask the magistrate for an adjournment which will mean your case is held at a later date, giving you time to collect evidence necessary to your case that you did not have with you on the day
  • apply for your case to be dealt with under a section 10 which means you will not get a criminal record (if you are being tried for something that has a criminal record attached)
  • advise you on methods of paying any fines or court costs that may be awarded against you on the day

If you are seeing a duty solicitor and are therefore unprepared to have your case heard, with enough notice the duty solicitor may be able to get the magistrate to ‘stand the matter’ – which means that the judge will go through other matters before returning to yours.

Remember, turning up on the appointed day is essential.

If you can’t make it to court or you panic on the day, the appropriate course of action is not to simply to fail appearing. If you do this, you are at risk for several things.

Firstly, the case might be decided in your absence and secondly, the magistrate may even order a warrant for your arrest.

It’s much better just to come to court prepared than to have to come back at a later date, or face even more severe consequences. Remember that many people do choose to represent themselves and this number is rising.

But if at any stage you are unsure of your options, seeking some initial legal advice may be your best bet. For more information on preparing for your day in court, click here.

Dirty drug lab

Downing Centre Local Court is one of the largest courts in Sydney and it deals with a number of different drug matters, including possession, supply and manufacture of drugs. If you are scheduled to appear at Downing Centre Local on drug manufacturing charges, it’s important to have an understanding of what your charges mean, what to expect in court, and what the possible outcome might be.

What is drug manufacturing?

According to the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act, drug manufacture is an indictable offence, which means it is generally dealt with in the district court. In some cases, it may be possible to have drug manufacturing charges dealt with summarily in the local court. This generally applies in situations where the quantity manufactured wasn’t considered to be a large or commercial quantity.

Drug manufacturing is classified as the production or manufacture of any prohibited drug and it includes taking part in the manufacture or production of a prohibited drug, even if you are not the main person responsible. Whether or not a drug is considered to be a prohibited drug depends on how it is classified according to the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration. Laws vary slightly between states and the penalty you will get for manufacturing or growing different drugs may be different depending where the matter is dealt with.

What is the penalty for drug manufacturing?

The penalty you receive for a drug manufacturing charge will depend on your previous history and the type and quantity of drug manufactured. There are also different penalties depending on whether the matter is dealt with as an indictable offence or a summary offence. If you are due to appear at Downing Centre Local for drug manufacturing, the offence is being handled summarily, which means you will be liable for a lower maximum penalty than if you were appearing at the district court.

The maximum penalty for drug manufacturing charges dealt with at the local court is a two-year prison sentence, or a fine of up to $2,200. Other penalties you might receive include a good behaviour bond, community service, a suspended sentence, or if you plead guilty, a Section 10 order.

For matters involving the manufacture of indictable or commercial quantities of drugs the maximum penalty increases significantly and long-term imprisonment is a strong possibility. The maximum jail sentence for the manufacture of commercial quantities of drugs is life imprisonment. Cases involving larger quantities of drugs will be heard at the district court rather than the local court, and will usually involve a judge and jury instead of a magistrate.

What will happen at court?

If you have been arrested on drug manufacturing charges and released on bail, or you have been given a court attendance notice, you will be required to attend the local court on a specified date. It is a good idea to seek legal advice as soon as possible, even if you intend to plead guilty.

Make sure you attend court on your nominated day and time. If you can’t attend for any specific reason, make sure you call the court as soon as possible and provide evidence of the reason, for example a medical certificate from your doctor if you are sick. Failing to turn up to your court date may lead to a warrant being issued for your arrest and the matter can even be decided without you.

You will need to bring all your papers and documents to court and prepare to wait around, as it can take a while for your turn. The first court date is where you plead guilty or not guilty. If you decide to plead guilty, the matter may be decided then and there, and the magistrate will give you a sentence. If you choose to plead not guilty, the matter will be postponed so that both sides can prepare their evidence.

If you are unsure how to plead it’s a good idea to speak to a lawyer before your court appearance. If you choose to plead not guilty, you will need help in preparing your defence, and it’s a good idea to have representation in court. Drug manufacture charges can be serious, so make sure you have the best chance of a positive outcome.

Passing document

Have you been served with an AVO? Having an AVO taken out against you can have a significant impact on your lifestyle, and can cause major inconvenience. Unfortunately many AVOs are taken out unnecessarily, either out of malice from private individuals or by overzealous police officers who have no evidence but want to be seen as taking a firm stance in issues of suspected domestic violence.

Although it can be difficult to challenge an AVO once it has been served, there are a number of things you can do to increase your chances of being able to successfully defend yourself against an AVO. Your first step is to get an experienced lawyer who has a proven track record in helping people defend themselves in situations similar to yours.

What is an AVO?

An AVO is an Apprehended Violence Order. It’s a court-issued document that prohibits you from coming within a certain distance of or contacting another person (the alleged person in need of protection or PINOP).  There are a few different types of AVO that you may be served with, depending on the situation and your relationship with the alleged victim.

An ADVO is an Apprehended Domestic Violence Order and these are taken out in situations where there is a domestic relationship between the alleged victim and the defendant. An ADVO can be taken out by police without the consent of the alleged victim, or they can be requested by the alleged PINOP. ADVOs can be difficult to defend but it is possible in certain circumstances.

An APVO is an Apprehended Personal Violence Order and these come into effect when there is no domestic relationship between the parties. An APVO may be taken out in the case of neighbours or friends who don’t live together but where one feels that they may be at risk of violence or harassment from the other. Unfortunately both ADVOs and APVOs can be misused and taken out unfairly out of malice or spite.

How can I defend myself against an AVO?

If you have been served with an AVO it’s important to think about your options carefully. You can choose to accept the AVO, which doesn’t mean that you are admitting to any allegations contained within it. Accepting the AVO means that the matter is finalised more quickly, but it also means that you will be required to abide by the terms of the AVO for as long as it is in effect. Although an AVO is not a criminal conviction, you will be prohibited from working in certain occupations and having a firearms licence if you are the subject of an AVO. You will also be required to restrict your movements and avoid places where the alleged PINOP resides or works.

If you choose to defend yourself against an AVO, you will need to go to court. Most AVO matters have an initial court hearing date where the AVO will be served. If you decide to defend yourself, you will be given a further court date where the matter will be heard.

This is usually around six weeks after your first date to give you time to gather evidence and prepare your case. In the meantime, you may be served with an interim AVO, which is a temporary AVO to last until the matter is finalised.

Before your hearing you will need to gather as much evidence as possible to support your defence. Your lawyer will guide you as to the specific evidence you will need depending on your circumstances. Statements from witnesses and any documentary evidence that can show that the person taking out the AVO is lying, or misleading the court, will be helpful.

AVOs can be cancelled or withdrawn in cases where there is no evidence that the alleged PINOP is at risk of harassment or violence from the defendant. In cases where police may have taken out an AVO on someone else’s behalf and the alleged victim hasn’t given a statement, or if there is no evidence to support allegations of domestic violence, the AVO may be withdrawn.

If you have been issued with an AVO and want to defend yourself, make sure you speak to an experienced lawyer as soon as possible. Your lawyer will be able to advise you on your best defence and tell you what the possible outcome will be. If you are currently under an AVO it’s important that you don’t breach the terms until the matter is decided. Breaking an AVO is a criminal offence and it can lead to further legal problems and a criminal conviction.

Ugur Nedim

Do you have an upcoming appearance scheduled at the Downing Centre Court?

If you are due to appear in court, even for a relatively minor matter, it is a good idea to seek advice and representation from an experienced criminal defence lawyer.

Ugur Nedim, a lawyer from Sydney Criminal Lawyers, has experience with the magistrates and judges at Downing Centre Court.

Ugur is the principal of the firm, and has been successfully defending minor and more serious cases, including murder and commercial drug cases, since 1998.

In fact, Ugur has worked in criminal defence since 1992 when he became a law clerk for a prominent defence firm. He started his own firm in 2001 which has built a reputation for excellence in the field.

What should I look for when I choose a lawyer?

If you are looking for a lawyer to represent you in court there are a number of factors you should take into consideration.

Finding the right legal representation can make a big difference to the outcome of your criminal case, so make sure you choose a lawyer who is experienced and has a proven track record of success at defending cases like yours in Downing Centre Court.

Here are some of the things you should look at when choosing a lawyer to represent you in court:

  • Experience. An experienced lawyer will know what is likely to be the best defence in your case and will be able to base their strategy on what has worked in the past. Experienced lawyers also have a good reputation and standing with magistrates who are more likely to listen to them and trust their arguments.
  • History. Experience is one thing, but having a proven track record of successfully defending cases that are similar to yours can give you an idea of the likely outcome. When you are looking for a new lawyer, ask to see records of their previous cases and check whether or not they got the outcome that you are looking for.
  • Ability to communicate. Going through the court process is a stressful time and in order for your lawyer to be able to guide you and give you the best quality representation, you need to be able to communicate effectively and honestly with them. If you don’t feel comfortable with your lawyer or if they speak in incomprehensible legal terminology all the time, this is not going to alleviate your stress or give you the best chance of a positive outcome.
  • Individual or team. Although many lawyers work independently, for the highest level of representation it is a good idea to look for a lawyer who works as part of a team. Having a group of people working on your case means you can expect to have people who specialise in different areas working on different aspects of your case, and an overall higher level of representation.
  • Fees. Lawyers’ fees can be expensive so make sure you check how your lawyer is planning to charge, and ensure that you are aware of all costs upfront. Some law firms, including Sydney Criminal Lawyers, charge flat rate fees for minor or routine matters, and this can be a good way to avoid unexpected bills and keep your legal fees reasonable.

Having a criminal conviction on your record can have a lifelong impact on you and your family, so it is important that you find the best possible legal representation. Ugur Nedim is a lawyer who regularly attends Downing Centre Court, and is an accredited specialist in criminal law.

Make sure you give yourself the best chance of a positive outcome from your court case and choose the best quality legal representation available.

Written notice

If you have been charged with a criminal offence or are due to appear at Downing Centre Local Court for a penalty notice or other traffic-related matter, it is important that you attend court on your nominated court date. Failing to turn up for court at the scheduled time could potentially lead to serious penalties, and the matter could be decided in your absence.

If you are going to be away on your planned court date or can’t attend for some other reason, in some cases you may be able to make your plea in writing by filling out a written notice of pleading. Provided that the court receives this notice in time, the magistrate will take it into consideration when deciding your sentence, or whether the matter will proceed to a defended hearing.

Where can I find a Written Notice of Pleading form?

The form for a written notice of pleading can be obtained from the registrar’s office at Downing Centre Local Court or it can be downloaded from the Local Court website. Once you have your form, make sure you fill it out carefully and read all the instructions. If you are at the court registry, the court staff will be able to assist you in completing the form, although they can’t give you legal advice or help you decide whether to plead guilty or not guilty.

You should make sure you include any information that is relevant to your case on the written notice of pleading, including medical records, character references, information about your personal and financial circumstances, and anything else that might be considered relevant and could help the magistrate decide the outcome of your case.

You will need to lodge your written notice of pleading at least seven days before your scheduled court appearance. If you lodge it later than that, it is possible that it will not reach the court by the correct date and the matter will be decided in your absence without taking into consideration the information on the form. If you are currently on bail and the conditions of your bail specify that you attend court, you won’t be eligible to use a written notice of pleading.

Are there any disadvantages to filing a written notice of pleading?

Filing a written notice of pleading means that you won’t be present at the time of your court date to defend yourself or present your side of the story. This can potentially mean that you may get a less positive outcome than if you were there to defend yourself.

Even if you intend to plead guilty it can be helpful to be present at your hearing so that you can answer any questions the magistrate might have. In some cases you may also be able to explain any mitigating circumstances or ask for a lesser penalty, which won’t be possible if you file a written notice of pleading. When you lodge a written notice of pleading, all the court has is the information in the form. If there are any gaps in the information you have provided, you won’t be there to clarify things for the magistrate.

If you are going to be away and have no other option, a written notice of pleading is better than not turning up to your court date, but wherever possible it is generally best to be physically present in court, even if you do intend to plead guilty.

Downing Centre District Court

Downing Centre District Court generally deals with more serious criminal cases than the local court. District courts are typically where more complex or severe criminal matters are heard, and where appeals against local court decisions are dealt with. If you have recently been through the court system at Downing Centre Local Court, and are unhappy with the outcome, you have the right to appeal to the district court.

Why do people appeal?

There are two main types of appeal you can make at a district court. You can appeal against the conviction itself if you were found guilty of a crime that you are not guilty of, or you can appeal against the severity of a sentence if you feel it was overly harsh.

How do I appeal at the district court?

If you want to appeal a local court decision you have 28 days to lodge an application. This can be done at the local court by visiting the Court Registry and filling out a form. There is an application fee to lodge an application for an appeal.

Once your application is lodged, you will receive notification of a listing date at the district court. You will need to attend court on that date and present any new evidence that wasn’t supplied on your first court date, and that might be relevant. It is also a good idea to bring along any witnesses who weren’t able to give evidence at your first hearing. If you can provide a reasonable explanation of why they didn’t give evidence at the local court, you may be able to call them to provide evidence at your appeal.

Do I need a lawyer to appeal?

You don’t need to have a lawyer with you when you appeal to the district court, but it is highly advisable. You only get one chance at an appeal unless compelling new evidence comes to light at a later date, so the district court judge’s decision is final. Make sure you present the strongest possible case by having an experienced legal representative, and you will have a much higher chance of success than by representing yourself.

Can I get a more severe sentence?

It is possible for a judge to impose a harsher sentence on appeal. But if the judge at the district court reads your evidence and the transcripts of your previous hearing and decides that your original penalty was not severe enough, they can’t give you a more severe sentence without first issuing you with a warning. If you receive this warning (known as a “Parker warning”) your lawyer will immediately withdraw your application before you can be given a more serious penalty. This is another good reason to have professional representation, as an experienced lawyer will know when this is happening, and when to take action to avoid a harsher penalty.

If you have recently been through the court process and you aren’t sure whether you have grounds for appeal, it’s a good idea to speak to a lawyer for advice.

If you decide to appeal, make sure you bring all the evidence you have available and take some time to prepare your case. You only get one chance to appeal at Downing Centre District Court, so make sure you give yourself the best possible chance of a positive outcome.