Useful tips for attending court to seek a protection order
Barbera shared some useful tips from her experience attending a protection order hearing.
- Alternative car parking. My car is very noticeable and I was concerned about the respondent recognising it and possibly damaging it. While parking at the Courts is convenient, I opted instead to park on the roof of the Canberra Centre building. It cost $11 for all day parking; that way I knew my car was safe and I wouldn't need to run out to the machine to put in extra money. The walk to the Courts helped me prepare and clear my head too.
- Headspace. I brushed off my psychologist when she warned me of this, and despite being relatively calm and prepared, I was in a completely different headspace on the morning of court, making lots of tiny little mistakes like leaving my car keys in the house and taking the wrong exit. Your mind may be so preoccupied with the court process and what might happen, that it’s a good idea to limit other tasks. If possible, have someone drive you or catch public transport.
- Court support volunteer. Even if you have support from a friend or family member, it is helpful to accept the offer of a court support volunteer through Victim Support ACT as they understand the court system.
- Arrive early. Upon arriving at the Courts, you must go through the security gate and then take a ticket from a machine to register at the counter. It’s a good idea to arrive as early as possible, to avoid running into the respondent in the foyer.
- Legal Aid ACT office. Once registered, you can wait in the Legal Aid office behind the reception area. This space is locked and staffed by Legal Aid officers, so you can wait in peace without being intimidated by the defendant. There isn’t any access to toilets, but Legal Aid officers or security can escort you if you need to use the facilities.
- Bring a snack and water. The court process can take all day, so it’s a good idea to pack a snack and a bottle of water, to keep blood sugar levels up and your mind focused.
- Representation. I ended up visiting the court three times before my case was presented to a magistrate for ruling. At no point was I made aware that I could hire a lawyer to represent me, or that I could submit evidence or bring along witnesses. You may want to consider seeking legal advice or legal representation. The Legal Aid office at the Court may be able to assist you with this.
- Fees. There are no fees concerned with applying or implementing a protection or domestic violence order, unless you choose to be represented by a lawyer, in which case you must pay the lawyer’s fees.
- Write a statement. I ended up writing down my experience and feelings so that I had it in front of me and when I was being asked questions I could refer to it so that I didn’t forget anything I wanted to be known. It is so overwhelming, particularly once you’re in the court confronted by the respondent, so it was helpful to have things written down in front of me.