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Roles in Court
There are many people involved in the court system. Below is a list of people you might meet if you are required to attend court.
Plaintiff, complainant or applicant
The plaintiff, complainant, or applicant is the person who initiates the case in a non-criminal matter.
Accused or respondent
The accused or respondent is the person against whom a case is brought.
Magistrate or judge
The magistrate or judge is the person who decides what happens to your case, whether you are guilty or not guilty, whether your case will have to go to another court or be put off until another day.
When you speak to a judge and magistrates you should usually address them as 'Your Honour'.
Associate Judge (Supreme Court)
The Associate Judge (Supreme Court) is the person who generally carries out the judicial function of hearing and determining issues which arise before and after trial in civil cases. Associate Judges do not hear trials.
A prosecutor is the person who appears in court to present the case against you, if you have been charged with committing a criminal offence.
A barrister is a legal advocate who is briefed by a solicitor on your behalf to present your case in court. A barrister can appear on behalf of any party.
Solicitor or duty solicitor
A solicitor or duty solicitor is the person who presents your case to the court. You may be entitled to representation by a duty solicitor if you do not have your own solicitor.
The informant is usually the police officer who charged you. In some cases the informant is a council officer or other government official. If you plead guilty the informant will not usually be in court.
The public includes your family, friends, or anyone else interested in exercising their right to watch what goes on in court.
Witnesses may either give an account of events about your case, or give expert evidence upon some matter affecting your case. You can bring your own witnesses to give evidence of your good character.
The registrar is the manager/administrator of the court. It will be a registrar or deputy registrar (or member of the registry staff) who will assist you at a court counter.
Bench clerk (Magistrates’ and Children’s Court)
The bench clerk sits near the magistrate, and announces the cases and calls people into court. The bench clerk will direct people where to stand, read the charges out and administer the oath or affirmation to witnesses. The bench clerk is usually a deputy registrar or trainee registrar.
Judge’s associate (Supreme and County Courts)
The judge’s associate performs various administrative and court duties to assist the judge. These duties may include completing paperwork, liaising with parities, keeping a record of court proceedings, and taking verdicts. Some associates may also undertake research as required by the judge.
Tipstaff (Supreme and County Courts)
The tipstaff announces that the court is in session and administers oaths or affirmations to witnesses. An important duty of the tipstaff is to look after the jury. He or she escorts jury members into the courtroom and into the jury room, and deals with any practical matters for the jury. Sometimes the role of the tipstaff is undertaken by a second associate.
GPO Box 13193
Law Courts, Melbourne VIC 3001
Tel: 03 9032 0720
Fax: 03 9032 0700