So, you have found a duty lawyer and have given them your name. They will approach the police prosecutor and get a copy of what is called “initial disclosure”. This is a copy of the most basic details of your charge. It normally consists of at least a copy of the charge documents, the summary of facts, and a record of your previous convictions. Police normally have copies of these pre-prepared in an envelope which says, “Initial Disclosure”. Initial disclosure is different from full disclosure which you don’t get at this stage.
The duty lawyer will bring the initial disclosure out and discuss it very briefly with you. By discuss I mean they will try to give you advice which is relevant on your first appearance. That really only is the following; they will give you a very basic description of the charge, they will go with your through the summary of facts – which is a description from the police about the circumstances of the charge as they understand it, and they will advise you about your options of pleading guilty or not-guilty. They will give you brief advice about the elements of the charge and of typical defenses that you may have. It is important to remember that the duty lawyer only have the initial disclosure at this stage.
They will also discuss with you the relative seriousness of the charge which may mean that you are either eligible for legal aid or that you should instruct a lawyer to represent you. If you are eligible for legal aid, they will advise you of that and will often help you with completing a form. If you are not eligible for legal aid, they will advise you to find a lawyer to get legal advice.
In either instance, they will advise that you ask the court to remand your case so that you can get legal aid or instruct your own lawyer and then decide how to deal with your case. Depending on the type of charge your case can be remanded for either 2 or 3 weeks.
So many cases will simply on their first appearance be remanded for 2 or 3 weeks. If that is the case with you the court has to decide whether you should be remanded with or without bail terms. If bail is imposed, you will be asked to sign a bail bond before leaving court. That will have all your bail rules on including your next date to come to court. If no particular bail terms are sought you will be remanded “at large”, meaning you have no bail rules but simply have to appear at the next specified court day. The duty lawyer will normally give you a card or note with the next date and time on it.
On your next appearance, you will be required to enter a plea – guilty or not guilty, and we deal with that shortly.
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