If you are attending a local court for a criminal matter, it is not essential to have a lawyer represent you. You can represent yourself, but it’s still a good idea to seek some professional legal advice. There are a number of free advice services available through Legal Aid, but one of the most useful if you are attending court and haven’t had a chance to speak to anyone beforehand is the duty lawyer.
What is a duty lawyer?
The duty lawyer is a service provided by Legal Aid at Hornsby Local Court and others across NSW. Duty lawyers are available at certain times to provide advice to those who are attending the court and don’t have legal representation. The duty lawyer is either a lawyer who is hired by Legal Aid, or a private lawyer paid by Legal Aid to provide advice about the court process and individual legal matters.
What can a duty lawyer do for me?
If you have not had the opportunity to seek legal representation beforehand, it is highly advisable that you see the duty lawyer. There are a number of different ways a duty lawyer can help you, including:
- Explain the court process to you and what the possible outcome might be for your matter.
- Speak to other court staff and/or other parties involved in the case on your behalf.
- Give you legal advice about your case, what your best defence might be and what documentation or evidence you need to provide.
- Speak on your behalf in court for some matters, depending on the complexity of the case and whether it is due to be listed that same day.
- Request an adjournment on your behalf so that you can have time to seek legal advice and representation.
Seeing a duty lawyer is free, and you don’t need to be eligible for Legal Aid to ask them for advice and speak to them. If you want the duty lawyer to represent you in court, you will generally need to be eligible for Legal Aid. If you are in receipt of a Legal Aid grant, you will be expected to pay a contribution towards your legal costs.
What other services are available from Legal Aid in Hornsby?
If you are in Hornsby, there are a few free legal services you can access through Legal Aid. There is a free legal advice helpline which can provide you with advice about your legal matter and pass on contacts to help you get more in-depth advice and practical support. There are a number of different helplines that cater specifically to people in different circumstances, such as youth, prisoners and mental health advocacy.
There are also several other legal services for people who are experiencing specific issues, such as women who are appearing in court for domestic violence-related situations, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait islanders who are in need of legal help and advice.
The Children’s Court Assistance scheme also provides advice and support for young people and their carers who are going through the criminal justice system.
If you are facing criminal charges and need legal advice, it is well worth researching all your options. Legal Aid is a useful resource for people who are due to appear at Hornsby Local Court and other courts around the state, or you can speak to a private lawyer for advice about your matter.