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DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

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Information for Women Attending Hearings at Court

Going to a Hearing

You have asked the court to make an order for your protection - an ADVO (Apprehended Domestic Violence Order). The person you want to be protected from is called the Defendant. If the Defendant doesn't agree to your application for an ADVO, the Magistrate will ask you both to come back on another day for a Hearing. At your Hearing, the Magistrate will decide whether or not to grant you an ADVO.

How are Hearings different from what has already happened at court?

  • Hearings take longer. They can take all day sometimes, and if time runs out, the Hearing may be adjourned to another date in the near future.
  • You will need to be sworn in and give evidence.
  • Your witnesses will need to attend court and also be sworn in so they can give evidence.
  • You will have to answer the questions of your legal representative (Police Prosecutor or Solicitor) as well as the questions of the Defendant's Solicitor. If the Defendant represents himself, you'll need to answer his questions. This is called cross-examination.
    • How do I give evidence?
      At the hearing, the Magistrate will decide whether you need an ADVO by looking at all the available evidence, that is, all the information you and and the Defendant present at court.

      Your evidence may may include a journal or diary of incidents, doctor's reports, hospital records, police records, photographs, Statuary Declarations (written reports from witnesses signed by a JP), copies of SMS's or phone messages, and more. You may have written a statement. 

      You may also have witnesses who appear in person. The Magistrate must decide based only on the evidence he or she has before him.

      There are strict rules about what is classed as evidence. 
      For example, you can't repeat what another person said or heard as this is called "hearsay". You also can't give an opinion as evidence.

      What happens when I'm sworn in? 
      This means you must take an oath, or make an affirmation, to tell the truth. If you choose to take an oath you usually hold a Bible, Koran or other religious book, while a court officer asks you, “Do you swear that you will tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you (God/Allah etc)?” to which you reply, “I swear.”

      If you don't have a religious belief, you can choose to make an affirmation. You will be asked to say: “I, (your name), do truly and solemnly declare and affirm that the evidence I shall give shall be the whole truth and nothing but the truth"

      Both ways you are swearing to tell the truth. Giving false evidence is a serious criminal offence.

      Do I need to organise my witnesses?
      As soon as you know who is going to appear as a witness for you, give their name, address and contact information to your legal representative (Police Prosecutor or Solicitor). They will organise the witnesses from that point onwards. We recommend that you contact your legal representative before your court date to make sure this has been done.

      Is Court Assistance available for my hearing?
      Court Assistance may be available for your hearing date. Contact your Court Advocacy Service to make sure. On the Central Coast, this is CCDVCAS, the Central Coast Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Service Inc on 02 4321 0099. They can usually provide a Court Support Worker to be with you during the Hearing.

      Do I need to find a Legal Representative?
      This depends on whether the Police applied for the ADVO on your behalf, or whether you applied for it by going to the Chamber Magistrate at your local court.

      Police ADVOs
      If the Police have applied for the ADVO on your behalf, then you are their witness. They will present their report and your statement taken at the time of the incident as evidence. The Police Prosecutor will represent you, at no cost to you.

      Private ADVOs
      If you have gone to the Chamber Magistrate to apply for an ADVO, it would be in your best interest to have Legal Representation at the Hearing. If you were represented by one the of scheme (duty) Soliticors at your mention (the first court date for this matter), that Solicitor may be able to represent you at the Hearing.

      You may also be eligible for a grant of Legal Aid. The scheme or duty Solicitor will be able to apply for a Legal Aid grant on your behalf. If you're not eligible for Legal Aid, or have trouble arranging for a Solicitor, contact CCDVCAS (02 4321 0099) as soon as possible.

      It's important to make engage and make contact with a solicitor well in advance of your Hearing date.

      Making the Order - the Magistrate's Decision
      Once the Magistrate has heard all the evidence, he or she will make a decision. When making the decision he or she will take into account ALL the evidence. The Magistrate must be satisfied that the applicant (that's you) is fearful of the defendant, and that there are reasonable grounds for that fear.

      If the Police have applied for the order, they can refuse to withdraw the application if they hold fears for your safety.

      What do I do if I don't want to go ahead with my ADVO Hearing? 
      If you decide that you no longer want to proceed with your ADVO application, you still need to attend Court, or notify the Court in writing. The Defendant or his/her Solicitor also must be notified. If you don't notify them, you may have to pay the Defendant's Solicitor costs, if they turn up on the Hearing date.

      Emotional Support
      Court can be emotional and stressful. It's really important, whenever possible, to have a person who can support you at court on the day(s) of the Hearing. It's also important to look after yourself before and after your day in Court. Eat properly and don't take on too many other stressful situations. Allow yourself time to rest and relax. Allow yourself time to process the emotions that Court will bring up for you.

      What do I wear?
      Wear clothes that make you feel comfortable. Remember, people can make judgements based on how you are dressed so your clothes need to be neat, clean and conservative. This allows you to present your case favourably to the Magistrate.

      Where do I sit?
      If you're represented by the Police Prosecutor, you will sit next to him/her. The Court Support Worker will point to the correct chair for you when it's time. If you're being represented by a Solicitor, you will sit near them. Usually they sit on the right side of the table, and you sit just behind them. The Defendant will stand or sit with his Solicitor. You are allowed to have a support person sit near you. This can be a friend, relative, interpreter or Court Support Worker.

      TIPS FOR GIVING EVIDENCE

      • Listen to the questions carefully.
      • Try to relax - take your time in answering.
      • If you don't understand the question - SAY SO.
      • If someone (Police, Solicitor and/or defendant says "Objection", stop speaking.
      • Read your statement before you go to court but do not try to memorise it. What is important is your recollection of events rather than whether you can repeat it word for word.
      • If you can't remember or you're not sure, SAY SO.
      • If you lose concentration, ask for the question to be repeated.
      • If you need a break, ASK.
      • The Magistrate needs to know what YOU saw, heard and experienced, not what someone else seemed to think or recollect.
      • As far as possible, be clear and factual in your answers. The court is not the place for anger or blame.
      • If the Magistrate addresses you, call her/him "Your Honour".
      • If you are telling the court what someone else said, try to use their exact words, eg he said: "Give me the money" rather than saying "he asked me for some money".
      • Make sure your mobile is turned off before entering Court and you sunglasses are not on the top of your head.
        • Tips for looking after yourself

          • Have a bubble bath the night before Court!
          • Have everything you need ready the night before Court.
          • Have a friend pick you up and drive you to Court, or stay with a supportive friend the night before Court.
          • See if you can have someone look after the children or pick them up from school on the day of Court, so you won't have to worry about them. Court can go well into the afternoon/early evening.
          • If you have pre-schoolers, organise childcare for the day.
            • Glossary of Legal Terms

              • ADVO - Apprehended Domestic Violence Order.
              • The Complainant - This may be you or the person (ie The Police) who has taken out the complaint (application for ADVO).
              • The Defendant - The person you are applying for an ADVO against (the person you're fearful of).
              • Interim Order - An order you or the Police obtain from court while you wait for your final order which is granted by the Magistrate.
              • Adjourn or Adjournment - This means your matter has been put over to another day. You will need to return to Court on that day.
              • Sworn In - An oath to speak the truth. See "What Happens When I'm Sworn In" above.
              • Witness - A person who can support your application (complaint) because they have seen or heard some or any of the behaviour included in your evidence.
              • Legal Representative - A Barrister, Solicitor or Police Prosecutor who will speak on your behalf to the Magistrate.
              • Cross Examination - The defendant's Legal Representative or the Defendant himself can ask you questions while you are in the sworn in and called as a Witness.
                • For more information or support, contact a Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Support Service in your area.
                  Go to:

                  CCDVCAS provides Domestic Violence Court Advocacy at Gosford, Wyong and Woy Woy Courts.
                  You can contact CCDVCAS on 02 4321 0099.

                  You can find out more about Legal Aid's "Women with Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Program"
                  at

LEGAL AID'S DOMESTIC VIOLENCE COURT ADVOCACY PROGRAM