Chapter Four explains what happens at the Magistrates’ Court during an Intervention Order application and what services and facilities can add to a victim survivor’s safety.
Q&A – Magistrates’ Court
The following are the questions most commonly asked by regional stakeholders about the Magistrates’ Court.
To print the Q&A, click here.
- Once an affected family member is notified of the hearing date for a family violence intervention order, contact can be made with the registrar at the Magistrates' Court to discuss significant safety concerns and arrangements which need to be considered before or during the affected family member's attendance at court.
- If it unsafe for the affected family member to attend court due to threats or other safety issues, alternative options can be considered such as a remote witness facility (via video). This is determined by each court and can be arranged through either the court or Victoria Police. If there are serious risks associated with the affected family member getting into the court building, security arrangements can be considered by the court.
- When the affected family member arrives at court for a hearing, other concerns regarding security and safety can be discussed with the registrar.
- A support person can provide support in the waiting room by sitting with the affected family member and requesting additional safety measures if required.
- Before going to court, it is useful for workers to advise affected family members that it is best not to bring children. Encourage affected family members to bring food and drink as it is possible that they may be required in court all day and there may not be a cafe on the premises. Encourage them to bring evidence, paperwork, a book or magazine and a support person. A worker can attend court with an affected family member, as a support person.
- On arriving at court, affected family members will have to walk through airport-type security. They will then need to present to the family violence registry to let the registrar know that they have arrived. Affected family members can speak to the registrar about duty lawyers and other supports that can increase their safety.
- The Magistrates' Court website offers further information about what can be expected when attending a family violence hearing.
- Once an affected family member is notified of their hearing date, contact should be made with the family violence registry at the relevant Magistrates' Court as soon as possible to ensure an interpreter can be secured. It is important to follow up any telephone conversations with court staff via email to confirm the details of the original request. Most courts have an email address for the family violence registry.
- If an interpreter is unable to be booked for a court appearance, a telephone interpreter can be arranged by court staff.
- Interpreters often work half-day blocks, which means one interpreter may be with the affected family member in the morning for all the preparation work, but it may be a different interpreter for the actual hearing.
- A mention hearing is the first date on which a matter is listed before the court. The matter may not get finalised that day, but if there is enough evidence of family violence, the magistrate may, at a minimum, grant an interim intervention order. If the respondent contests the intervention order application, the magistrate will not hear their arguments at the mention hearing.
- If the respondent contests the application, it will need to go back to court for a directions hearing. At this hearing, affected family members will need to advise the court of their needs and intentions including if they need an interpreter for the contested hearing; whether they will be calling any witnesses; and whether they will have a lawyer.
- The contested hearing is the final hearing, when the magistrate hears all the evidence from both sides, including witnesses, and affected family members will be asked to provide more details. A date might not be set for a contested hearing until the lawyers have gathered all the evidence.
- There are many reasons a respondent may not attend court, for example if the police have been unable to serve the intervention order.
- If an order has been applied for, and/or an interim order is in place, and the respondent has been service, but does not attend a subsequent court hearing, then the court can make a final order in their absence. It is ultimately a decision of the magistrate to finalise the matter based on submissions to the court. The final order will then need to be served on the respondent.
Also refer to 'What happens if an intervention order isn't able to be served on the respondent?' in the 'Family Violence Intervention Orders' Q&A.
- If a respondent has been served an intervention order and the violence escalates, the respondent is then in breach of the intervention order and could be arrested. Even if the police do not have enough evidence at that stage to arrest the respondent, a worker can still encourage an affected family member to make a complaint, as repeated breaches demonstrate a series of incidents and behaviour. If safe to do so an affected family member can gather evidence of breaches by taking photos of any breaches and writing down details of the incident, including the time, date and place.
- In collaboration with the affected family member, a worker can consider if the conditions on the intervention order still support the safety of the affected family member.
- If the intervention order application was originally a police application, the police should be informed if the conditions on the intervention order need to be changed. Police can seek to apply to vary the intervention order to change the conditions.
- Workers can support an affected family member - where the affected family member is the original applicant - to apply to vary the intervention order conditions at the Magistrates' Court.
Magistrates’ Court on the NIFVS website has more information about the Magistrates’ Court including what happens at the first mention, directions hearing and contested hearing.
NIFVS Service Directory provides a list of courts services in the northern metropolitan region that hear family violence matters and other relevant services.