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1012CCJ Court Report Assignment Brief
This 1012CCJ court report assignment brief has two parts. In the first part (Questions 1 to 5), you are asked to explain or describe some key concepts that are important to your understanding of criminal court processes. In the second part (Questions 6 to 12), you are asked to describe and reflect on the criminal court hearing that you observed.
In your report, answer each of the following questions. Use the questions as sub-headings in your report (see the Information Sheet for further information).
- What does the prosecution need to prove in the courtroom for a person to be convicted of a criminal offence?
- What are the differences between summary and indictable offences?
- What is a legal ‘defence’? Describe two common defences in criminal law.
- Explain the different courts that exist in your State or Territory’s criminal court hierarchy.
- Briefly describe the following court hearings. What is the main purpose of each?
- Summary Trial
- Committal hearing
- Jury trial
- Sentencing Hearing
- Which court did you attend, and what kind of hearing did you observe?
- What were the charges against the defendant? Were these summary or indictable offences? How did you know this?
- Identify who was present in the courtroom and describe the role you observed them perform.
- Briefly describe the physical layout of the courtroom. How did this reinforce the role and status of the judge, jury, lawyers and/or accused?
- Describe the courtroom procedures that took place, including the giving of evidence and arguments. Were these easy to follow? Why/why not?
- What was the most interesting thing you observed during your visit?
- Define the concepts of due process and the rule of law. Discuss the extent to which these concepts were upheld or undermined in the courtroom you visited.
Which Court should I attend?
You can attend the Magistrates’ Court (also called the Local Court in other jurisdictions); the District Court; the Supreme Court; or the Court of Appeal. You need to make sure that you are attending a criminal court proceeding.
What kind of hearing should I attend?
- You should aim to attend a committal, a trial (summary or full), or a sentence.
- It is possible that the proceeding you plan to attend changes after you arrive in the courtroom. For example, a matter which is set down as a trial might not proceed because the defendant decides to plead guilty. The matter might then proceed immediately to sentencing, but is often adjourned to a later date. If this happens while you are in court, you should decide if what you have already seen is sufficient for you to complete your report well. If you don’t have enough information, you should attend a different matter instead. It is useful to attend court on a day when there are several matters on the court list as this gives you more chance of finding an interesting matter to report on.
How do I find out what courts are close to me and what matters are listed from day to day?
- If you are in Queensland, the Courts website publishes a daily law list for most Courts each evening. You can find this on the homepage at www.courts.qld.gov.au .
- Alternatively, links to other Australian courts can be found at the bottom of the courts.qld.gov.au webpage. You can telephone the registry office to find out details of court hearings in your area – this is particularly useful if you live away from metropolitan areas.
- Try to find a matter that is not already part-heard. You might find it difficult to understand what is happening if you attend the 4th week of a trial! The daily law lists usually give you this information.
- If you have any problems in finding an appropriate matter please contact the Course Convenor. Make sure you attend a criminal matter and not a civil hearing.
How long do I have to spend in court?
You should set aside a day to attend court as you need to stay long enough to answer all the questions on the form completely. A sentence can take anywhere between 15 minutes to a couple of hours, depending on the issues raised. A committal hearing, a summary trial, and some District Court or Supreme Court trials often only take a day to hear. Other trials can be very long – you do not need to attend court for weeks to see a trial through to its conclusion. Be guided by the form – if you think you have seen enough to answer the questions intelligently then you need not stay longer.
Important - Court Etiquette
In attending court, decorum is required (particularly in the higher courts). Make sure you are neatly dressed with covered shoes (not thongs) and that you are on time.
Turn off mobile phones and don’t talk during proceedings. Sit as quietly as possible.
Whenever you leave or enter a courtroom and a hearing is in session you will need to bow to the Judge or Magistrate before leaving or entering. Do this at the door as soon as you enter, or before you leave.
There should be no reason for you to address the Judge or the Magistrate, but if this occurs you will need to stand up and wait until he/she addresses you, and then refer to the Judge or the Magistrate as “Your Honour”. You should never shout out to the Judge or the Magistrate nor should you behave inappropriately in their court.
Some hearings are conducted in closed courts. This means that the hearing is not open to the public. Usually this is signposted in some way. If you are unsure, check with the bailiff before entry.
Court Report Formatting Guidelines
Your Court Report is not a formal report, nor is it an essay. When you create your report, simply reproduce each of the questions and type your response underneath each question neatly and in complete prose (i.e. not in note form or incomplete sentences).
Print out the Court Report Questions and take them with you to court so that you can take notes. You must, however, submit your assignment electronically.