So you decided to take your covid fine to court and challenge it?

So You Decided To Take Your Fine To Court?
What do you do and how does it work? Let’s look into it.
To be clear, this is a very concise overview of how the process works, I will do an Instagram Live on this as well in order to explain. I can’t teach you the inner workings of the Court room in a few minutes, so please be realistic.
  1. It depends if you received an Infringement Notice in the mail or if you received a Court Attendance Notice. The latter automatically lands you in court without much of a choice.
  2. If you receive an infringement notice, I suggest you seek a review prior to seeking that the matter be heard in court. the review is sought through the SDRO (state debt recovery office).
  3. If this fails, and you elect that the matter be heard by a court, you need to go to the relevant Revenue NSW link on the back of the form and complete the steps.
  4. You will receive an email with the Court Attendance Notice, this will tell you when you are in court and which court you are in. Generally, you are allocated to the court closest to the location of the alleged incident. for example, if it is a fine for not wearing a mask in Liverpool, you will be allocated to the Liverpool Local Court list.
  5. Generally speaking, you appear in court on the allocated day and find the courtroom you are listed in. Certain courts have a number of courtrooms, such as the Downing Centre in Sydney (Level 4 for Local Court). You can also look up the online registry to find out which court room your matter is allocated to.
  6. Generally speaking most courts ask you to be there at 9:30 AM, which is generally when the list starts running. At least for short matters, or for matters that are in the list for the first time. These are what we call mentions.
  7. To be fully transparent I need to tell you, generally speaking, self-represented defendants appear after lawyers/barristers. this is typically court convention.
  8. It is difficult to get into the nitty gritty of each court, as each location has a different system, however, generally speaking it is a good idea to get a hold of the court officer. They are able to mark you off the list and will keep you informed of how the Presiding Magistrate is running the list.
  9. At this time, most court locations ask the accused to stay outside until their name is called. This will be called by the court officer, which is also the person that should give you a quick direction to the bar table.
  10. When you enter the courtroom, you will see the police prosecutor on one side of the table, this person will generally have a large volume of files (easy to spot). You as the accused person, will be speaking from the other side of this table when your matter is called.
  11. If this is your first time in the court, you need to tell the Magistrate if you intend to fight the fine/charge/breach, also called pleading not guilty. Or if you intend to admit fault, and would like to be sentenced more leniently, called pleading guilty and seeking a lenient sentence.
  12. For the purposes of this, I am going to assume that most people taking the matter to court, intend to plead not guilty and challenge the matter at a hearing.
  13. The Magistrate will ask you to confirm your name, potentially ask if you understand why you are in court, and finally ask if you wish to plead guilty or not guilty. once you say you wish to plead not guilty, the magistrate should order what we call brief service orders. This the evidence the prosecution relies on to prosecute you. The Magistrate may give four to six weeks for the serving of this evidence, meaning, serving you with the documents, statements, videos and other evidence in the said brief.
  14. On this day, the magistrate will give you your next date to Appear in court. This is called they reply date. On this date you will need to confirm to the court that you want to contest your matter at a hearing.
  15. When you attend court on the reply date, you will need to confirm that you intend to challenge the matter. You will then be given a hearing date, this will be the date of the substantive hearing where you run your matter. the magistrate may ask you if you intend to call any witnesses and if so, either ask you how many, or request that you file a witness list at a later date.
  16. So here comes the hearing date, the day you have been waiting for, in order to challenge the covid fine/breach you received. A hearing is quite a complicated day in court, so this is going to require a separate explanation in itself. For the purpose of this document, just understand that you should be fully prepared with your witnesses, your version of events and ready to question and cross examine the police.
 

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