Get a lawyer if you can but if you are self-represented, follow these tips.
Turn up early, it might take ages to get to the courtroom. The nearest car park will be three blocks away and the ticket machine will look like the dashboard of a Dreamliner jet. You may have to walk back to the car to scrabble for coins in the centre console. Once at the courthouse you need to look at the court list on a notice board to find the court number. You must get through security. You must find the court. Some of the old courthouses are a rabbit warren with courts in strange places such as verandas, basements and mezzanine floors, and if you can’t find the court you must wait in a queue at the enquiry booth for directions. Avoid this by looking for the court number before leaving home in the newspaper or on the court’s website.
Introduce yourself to the orderly, they are usually wearing a uniform and are located at a separate desk near the door. Tell them what you are doing that day: Are you pleading guilty and getting sentenced? Or adjourning for sentencing later? Are you pleading not guilty and going to trial? Are you seeking an adjournment and deferring your plea. The orderly decides the order in which people are called up and will usually call up in priority the short matters such as a guilty plea and adjournment. Be nice to the orderly not brusque, high handed or patronising. The orderly may tell you roughly when he will call you up. Try to find the prosecutor and have a similar conversation. See if you can do a deal, such as pleading guilty to a lesser charge (if you are happy with that).
Address a judge or magistrate as Your Honour; don’t use that phrase for a board member or court registrar. Addressing a female judge don’t say ma’am and certainly not madam; one magistrate denied she had ever been a madam. If there is time and you have not spoken to the prosecutor before being called up, try to have a quick chat at the long table behind which you face the magistrate.
TO BE CONTINUED
Catchword of the day to attract views: interlocutory.