The vast majority of those charged with a criminal offence will have their matters resolved in the Magistrates Court.

Statistically, a great number of these people will plead guilty to the offences which they are charged with.

As a result of this, there can be a tendency in the Magistrates Court to favour expediency rather than presenting the case of a client in a balanced and well prepared fashion.  What is imperative to remember is that the Magistrates Court is a dynamic jurisdiction and one which calls for significant preparation of matters which are proceeding to a plea of guilty.

This preparation can take many guises however will often involve the taking of a detailed personal statement from the client (with particular focus given to relevant factors at play at the time of offending).  References should be not only obtained but carefully scrutinised to ensure that they add some meaningful value to the sentence proceedings.  A well-tailored reference can, for example, give a greater insight into the person’s personal circumstances which could save the advocate themselves from having to submit on same.  Whilst increasingly practitioners are being forced to make submissions on penalty in the Magistrates Court without reference to authority, it is also imperative that the research be done should the Magistrate take umbrage with your ultimate submissions on the appropriate sentence.

Essential to the preparation for a Magistrates Court plea is also consideration of the growing list of diversionary programs including police and Court drug diversion and the Queensland Integrated Court Referral (QICR) program.  A well-developed knowledge of these referral programs will show that they are not solely directed at those who are marginalised in society but rather can have a wider remit and application, particularly for those who are motivated in addressing the underlying causes of their criminal behaviour.

Of course, all of this material needs to be bundled and condensed into a concise package.  It is important to have all the information to hand should the Magistrate query any particular area.  A failure to do so can result in the matter having to be needlessly adjourned or the Magistrate making a negative finding against your client.

Preparation is therefore key and the experienced Magistrate will be able to detect very quickly those who are lacking in this department.

Top tips for Magistrate Court plea preparation

  1. Know your client’s personal circumstances;
  2. Gather relevant and concise references from those who know your client best;
  3. Understand the factual basis on which your client will be sentenced on;
  4. Always have a valid authority up your sleeve for your sentencing submissions;
  5. Keep the submissions concise.

All of this comes as second nature to an experienced practitioner.  Here at Robertson O’Gorman we have a combined 75+ years of experience in preparing such matters and are able to tailor a sentencing solution to meet your needs.