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LAWS1052 Court Observation Assignment

Student Number: z3463145

For my Court Observation Assignment, I went to visit the Local Court at the Downing Centre and the Supreme Court at the King St Building observing criminal jurisdiction in both courts. From attending the court proceedings, my expectations from my course readings were both changed and confirmed. Such factors in particular include: the architecture of the court, behaviour of legal personnel and the procedure of how courts of different hierarchies operate.

Local Court My first visit was to the Local Court at the Downing Centre. Upon entering the building there was a brief security check before I headed to level 4 where criminal jurisdiction is heard. The procedure from the foyer followed as: Finding their allocated time slot and courtroom on the noticeboard. Finalising details with their legal representation in the foyer (if they had one). Waiting inside the courtroom for their name to be called by the registrar1. Either themselves or legal representation giving a brief background story of the accused. Registrar would then decide from then on to give an appropriate sentence. Confirmation with the accused in regards to the sentence or if an appeal is required

The whole process within the Local Court for each hearing barely lasted 10 minutes. This was what I had expected from my course readings2 due to the large amount of Local Court hearings. For this reason it took multiple cases before I could grasp an understanding of the procedure. The court itself in design was quite compact and there was only a slight elevation between where the registrar and the legal representation/accused. This was contrary to my readings3 and made the atmosphere within the court much less intimidating. Additionally, the registrar was more than willing to talk to the accused on a conversational level and was humble to explain every step of his decisive process to the accused. However, even with the registrars congenial attitude towards each case, there was an inexorable resilience in regards to unreasonable pleads such as shortening the revoked period of a drink driver4 with a history of speeding offences.

1 2

Registrar Steve Lister. Prue Vines, Law and Justice in Australia: Foundations of the Legal System, (2nd ed, Melbourne, Oxford University Press, 2009) Ch11 pp301-302 3 Prue Vines, Law and Justice in Australia: Foundations of the Legal System, (2nd ed, Melbourne, Oxford University Press, 2009) Ch11 pp319 4 Case 3 of the Local Court in the court appendix.

LAWS1052 Court Observation Assignment


Supreme Court

Student Number: z3463145

Following my visit to the Local Court, I went to the Supreme Court at the King St Building. Without any security checks for the galley it was a straight walk-in to Court 5 where only 1 trial was being held for the day. Due to the lengthy trials of the Supreme Court and having only attended the 3rd day of the trial I only had a limited sense of procedure: Legal cabinet of barristers and solicitors arrive first. Accused is brought out. Court Usher escorts the judge5 into the courtroom. Court Officer then brings in the jury. Witness is ushered in by the court officer and is sworn in under oath. Witness is examined by both the crown prosecutor and the opposing barrister. Witness is asked to leave when no further examination is required.

The architecture of the Supreme Court was much closer to what I had envisaged a court to be. There was an obvious sense of intimidation from the significantly distinct levels of height from the judge to the accused and legal cabinet on both parties. One of the striking difficulties that I saw the court experience during this trial was the cultural barrier6 between the Aboriginal witness being examined and the Anglo-Saxon judge and barristers. This made the examinations much lengthier with the barristers and judge requiring repetitions of the witness colloquial speech. As a result, the judges main role in the courtroom was for the jury to understand the examination in its entirety. As well as helping the jury, the judge would very instinctively resolve disputes between the barristers during the examination such as approving the objection by the accuseds barrister when the crown prosecutor had attempted to lead the witness in his favour.

Through visiting both the Local and Supreme Courts, I have gained first-hand experience witnessing the varying architecture of each court hierarchy, the congenial attitudes of judges and legal representation and the less than perfect mechanical nature of the court system that I had expected. Ultimately I have gained insight to the legal system that has complimented my otherwise sole readings from class.

5 6

Justice M Adams Prue Vines, Law and Justice in Australia: Foundations of the Legal System, (2nd ed, Melbourne, Oxford University Press, 2009) Ch11 pp323-325

LAWS1052 Court Observation Assignment

Student Number: z3463145

Appendix of Court Cases Observed


Local Court
Case Date/Time Type Jurisdiction Court Presiding Officer 1 18th March 2013 9:30am 2 18th March 2013 9:30am 3 18th March 2013 9:30am Mention (Police) Criminal Local Registrar Steve Lister Downing Centre Crt 4.4 Rv Mention (Police) Criminal Local Registrar Steve Lister Downing Centre Crt 4.4 Mention (Police) Criminal Local Registrar Steve Lister Downing Centre Court Court Room Crt 4.4 Case Title/Party Rv

Downing Melissa Ctr Louise BELL R v Peter

Downing George Ctr ANDREWS

Downing CHANG Ctr CHANG

Supreme Court
Case Date/Time Type Jurisdiction Court Presiding Officer 1 21st March 2013 10:00am Trial Criminal Supreme Justice M Adams King Street Sydney Court Court Room Court 5 Case Title/Party R v CORRIE LOVERIDGE