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Help Before Court overview

Information about how the Help Before Court service model started, its purpose and benefits.

What is Help Before Court?

A pre-court service model for people on bail or summons in the Magistrates' Court of Victoria.

Help Before Court supports the progress (and resolution if possible) of matters before court hearings and away from physical court locations.

Why Help Before Court?

Help Before Court arose out of a strong evidence base for system improvement across the summary crime system in Victoria.

In 2017 the Law and Justice Foundation of New South Wales conducted an independent evaluation of the appropriateness and sustainability of the VLA's Summary Crime Program. A combination of increased demand, the time pressures of summary crime duty lawyer work and constrained funding was contributing to an overloaded system. The 2016 Royal Commission into Family Violence and the 2017 Bail Review by Justice Coghlan similarly recommended alternative approaches with a focus on early intervention.

Objectives and benefits

The objectives of this project are to:

  • allow eligible clients to progress matters without the pressures of the at-court duty lawyer service
  • gives clients and lawyers more time and space to prepare for Court hearings
  • help address the backlog caused by COVID-19 and the closure of court locations, and limit the deleterious impact of delay on clients and their families
  • retain more continuity of service between eligible clients and lawyers
  • help move matters out of the summary crime jurisdiction by earlier resolution and better linkages with support services
  • improve the experience of clients receiving duty-lawyer level summary crime services
  • help deliver COVID-safe services and contribute to the COVID safety of Court buildings and locations

This project advances these Summary Crime Program Logic fundamentals:

  • clients and community better understand summary crime system processes and support options
  • clients are better assisted to address or prevent legal problems
  • clients experience fairer outcomes
  • clients benefit from timely legal and related services to address and/or prevent legal problems

This project also promotes the outcomes of the Program Logic, in particular:

Intermediate outcomes
  • earlier resolution of cases with reduced court events
  • the summary crime system is a healthier work environment
  • case conferencing processes work efficiently
  • clients have a clear understanding of their rights, options and court process
  • clients are given realistic advice which they can understand
  • increased capacity of clients to understand and make their own decisions about their legal issues and support needs
  • Summary Crime workforce makes clear and targeted referrals to support services
Longer term outcomes
  • improved functioning of the summary crime system
Summary Crime workforce outcomes
  • workforce participates in program planning and development including by trialling innovative approaches
  • workforce feels supported to respond to client need while maintaining wellbeing

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