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The hearing

What should I do on the day of the hearing?

Before you arrive

  • Find out the address of the court and check the location on a map.
  • Organise transport to the court, allowing time to arrive half an hour before the hearing starts.
  • Practise what you will say before the magistrate.
  • Dress neatly.
  • Bring all of your documents about the case including affidavits, quotes or receipts for repairs, photos etc.
  • Bring a pen and note paper.

When you arrive

  • Meet any witnesses who are coming to the court to provide evidence for you.
  • Wait with your witnesses for your hearing outside the court room.
  • You will be called into the hearing room when the magistrate is ready to begin. Witnesses wait outside the room until they are called.

When you are called

  • Speak clearly and follow the magistrate’s instructions.
  • Address the magistrate as “Your Honour”.
  • The magistrate will ask if there is any chance you and the other person could reach an agreement about the dispute. If there is a chance, you will be left to negotiate privately.
  • If you reach an agreement, the magistrate will record the terms of the agreement.
  • If you cannot reach an agreement, the hearing will continue in front of the magistrate.

What happens at the hearing?

Before anyone provides evidence to the court, they will be asked to swear an oath on a holy book or affirm (promise) to tell the truth. It is a crime to give false evidence.

When giving evidence, it is important to make sure what you say is relevant and to the point. Present your case in a business-like manner. Even though you might be upset or nervous about the situation, emotional outbursts will not help your case so try to keep calm.

1. The plaintiff tells their story and gives their evidence

The magistrate will invite the plaintiff to tell their side of the story. If the plaintiff has a lawyer, their lawyer will ask questions of the plaintiff. The magistrate may ask questions at any time during the hearing.

When the plaintiff has finished giving evidence, the magistrate will ask the defendant or their lawyer if they have any questions to ask the plaintiff.

2. The plaintiff’s witnesses give their evidence

The plaintiff’s witnesses will be called into the room one at a time to tell their story under oath. If the plaintiff has a lawyer, their lawyer will ask questions of the witnesses. The magistrate may ask questions at any time during the hearing.

When the plaintiff’s witnesses have finished giving evidence, the magistrate will ask the defendant or their lawyer if they have any questions to ask the witnesses.

3. The defendant tells their story and gives their evidence

Now it is the defendant’s turn to tell their side of the story under oath. If the defendant has a lawyer, their lawyer will ask questions of the defendant.
As before, the magistrate may ask questions at any time.

When the defendant has finished presenting their side of the story, the magistrate will invite the plaintiff or their lawyer to question the defendant.

Even if you disagree with what the other person is saying, do not interrupt. Take notes about anything you disagree with, so you can raise these issues when it is your turn to again question the other person.

4. The defendant’s witnesses give their evidence

The defendant’s witnesses are then called into the hearing room one at a time to give their evidence. If the defendant has a lawyer, their lawyer will ask questions of the witnesses. Again, the magistrate may question the witnesses at any time while they provide their evidence.

When the defendant or the defendant’s lawyer and the magistrate have finished questioning the defendant’s witnesses, the plaintiff or the plaintiff’s lawyer may question them.

5. Each party can make ‘submissions’ to the magistrate

A submission is a summary of the main points of your case and any weaknesses in the other party’s case. At the end of your submission you ask the magistrate
to make orders in your favour.

You are trying to convince the magistrate that your case is the stronger one.

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