Supporting someone going through court
Whether you are a victim, a witness or a defendant, going to court can be a daunting and stressful experience.
However, support and information is available to help you understand the legal system and prepare you for going to court, to support you during a trial, and to help you recover.
Types of court in Queensland
There are 3 levels of court in Queensland, the Magistrates Court, the District Court and the Supreme Court. The level of court a trial is heard in depends on the seriousness of the crime.
Find out more about Queensland’s courts and what they do.
Information about the law
Legal Aid Queensland provides a free legal information service. They can provide information and advice about the legal system and can refer you for more specific legal advice should you need it.
Find out more about Legal Aid Queensland’s services.
Speak to a client information officer on 1300 65 11 88.
Do you need an interpreter?
Whether you are a defendant, victim or witness it is important that you understand what is happening in court and the questions put to you. The court also needs to understand your answers.
If you don’t speak English
If you don’t speak or understand English well, you can ask for an interpreter to help you in court. You should let your legal representative know you need an interpreter as soon as you know you will be going to court. You should not have a family member interpret for you.
If you have a hearing impairment
If you have a hearing impairment and use sign language, your legal adviser can organise to have an interpreter in Auslan or other sign language to support you in court.
Modern courthouses may be fitted with audio loops. Tell your legal adviser to make sure this is available in the courtroom if you need it.
Support before and during court from Court Network
If you are going to court as a victim, witness or defendant in Brisbane, Townsville or Cairns, you can get help and advice from Court Network—a voluntary service providing support, non-legal information and referral for people going to court. Court Support volunteers can:
- provide support and information about going to court
- be with you to provide support on your day in court
- explain how the courts and legal system operates (in person or by telephone)
- show you around the court beforehand, so you can become familiar with where you have to go on the day of your court case
- provide you with a safe place in court
- refer you to other community services that can help you.
Contact Court Network for help and advice or call the Queensland office on 1800 267 671.
Support for defendants from the Catholic Prison Ministry
Through their Court Support Program the Catholic Prison Ministry provides information, support and advice for defendants going through Magistrates Courts. They can also provide support in District and Magistrates Court on request.
Court Support volunteers can:
- brief you on your rights to legal representation
- refer you to the Duty Solicitor and Legal Aid Queensland
- provide information about available solicitors
- explain the court process before you go to court
- liaise with court personnel on your behalf e.g. Police and Magistrates.
Support for witnesses and victims going to court
The court process can be daunting for a witness, particularly if you witness a violent crime. Information, support and advice are available to help you throughout the legal process and to help you recover from your experience.
See support for victims of crime for more information.
Free support and counselling is available from Relationships Australia. They can provide assistance in understanding the justice system and counselling and support to help you recover from the emotional and psychological impact of your experience.
Phone Relationships Australia on 1300 139 703 or find out more about the support they can provide to witnesses and victims of crime.
Victim Assist Queensland
Witnesses and victims of violent crime can get support and advice from Victim Assist Queensland by calling their Victims LinkUp information line on 1300 546 587.
They can give you information and advice about the legal process and help you prepare for your appearance in court.
Find out more about the support Victim Assist Queensland can provide.
Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP)
If you are a victim of crime you may be asked to attend court as a witness for the prosecution; you will be able to provide vital evidence about what happened. If the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) decides to prosecute the offender, the ODPP will appoint a victim liaison officer to help you throughout the court process. They will:
- keep you informed of when the case will go to court
- let you know if you need to be a witness
- arrange for you to discuss what will happen in court
- organise a support person
- help you write a victim impact statement
- refer you to specialist support and counselling services.