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How duty lawyers can help with hearings at the Magistrates’ court

Our duty lawyers help adults with criminal hearings at Magistrates’ Courts across Victoria.

Who can see a duty lawyer at court

This is a free service and anyone with a criminal hearing in the Magistrates’ court can receive help. How duty lawyers can help depends on the accused person’s charges and personal circumstances such as income.

How duty lawyers can help

Services available to people in custody

Duty lawyers give advice and representation on the day or help the person to get legal representation either through an application for legal aid or by a referral to a private practitioner.

Wherever possible the duty lawyer will appear for unrepresented persons applying for bail. Bail applications by Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander accused persons are prioritised.

If the accused person has a private lawyer, the duty lawyer will contact the lawyer to ensure they are aware that their client is in custody.

Services available to people on bail or summons

For all other accused adults, duty lawyers apply guidelines(opens in a new window) that consider the accused person’s criminal charges, personal circumstances such as income, and their ability to navigate the court system to determine which services to provide.

The duty lawyer services include:

  • information – by providing information to help an accused person to understand the charges they face, the process to be followed, how to represent themselves in court and where to access services, including those of a private practitioner.
  • advice – by a lawyer providing advice to an accused person which can include negotiating with the prosecution (including to arrange diversion). The lawyer should also refer the person to legal and non-legal support services as appropriate.
  • in-court advocacy – by a lawyer providing advice to an accused person, negotiating with the prosecution (including to arrange diversion where appropriate) and representing the accused person in court on the day.
  • grant application(opens in a new window) – by helping an accused person to complete an application for legal assistance and, if necessary, helping the person to get an adjournment for that application to be processed.

Duty Lawyer Guidelines

The guidelines for at-court and pre-court services are combined in the Duty lawyer and Help Before Court guidelines for criminal charges in the Magistrates' Court(opens in a new window)

Information for clients

Information for lawyers