Online criminal court hearings are a product of the COVID-19 pandemic. While they seem deeply embedded in the way the law is administered today, it was an alien concept two years ago. Online hearings will likely stay and it is important to master them to optimise court outcomes.
Being prepared for court has always been an uncompromising cornerstone to positive outcomes. However, online court has increased this need. In the past, it was common to attend the Magistrates’ Court with a police brief containing multiple charges, your lawyer to discuss the brief with prosecutors at court, reach a resolution and finalise the matter following a plea hearing. It was also common for your lawyer to iron out issues with the police brief, such as the agreed summary of facts on the day of court. Online court does not allow this because your lawyer does not have an opportunity to have a private conversation with prosecutors before online court commences.
It has therefore become imperative that there is a clear resolution of the charges well in advance of court, if the matter is proceeding as a guilty plea, and the summary has been settled. Stay in regular contact with your lawyer and make sure they have your up to date instructions.
2. File Material with the Court in Advance
Online court has forced criminal lawyers to adapt their skills to making persuasive submissions seated at their desk speaking to a computer screen. A far cry from their natural habitat, standing in a court room and making submissions from the bar table. It is distracting and can interrupt flow for lawyers to pause their submissions to attach documents they want to tender in an email to the Court Registry part way through making submissions.
Send all of the material you want your lawyer to tender on your behalf ahead of your online hearing.
3. Dress Appropriately
Although most people appear in online court from home, deference must be shown to the court. Dress appropriately to demonstrate to the Magistrate that you treat your matter seriously.
4. Find a Stable Location
Set your camera on a stable surface such as a table and sit still in frame. You should avoid holding your device up to your face as if you are speaking on loud-speaker. You should also avoid walking around with your device because it appears as though you are distracted and can be disorientating for people viewing your screen.
On this point, take the time to check the quality of your internet connection, microphone and camera.
5. Accessing webex links
The Magistrates’ Court recently updated their procedure on releasing webex links. You can now access a webex link by clicking on the link above and locating the corresponding court, date and time your matter is listed.
Similar to a football team winning a grand final, every one per cent matters in criminal cases in the Magistrates’ Court. It is worth taking the time to make sure your device is properly set up to achieve the best possible outcome.