Checklist for Self-Representation
1. Obtain a copy of all charges against you
2. Consider whether or not you intend to (a) plead guilty or (b) not guilty
Do you you wish to represent yourself? Seek legal advice if necessary to assist you to make that decision. Free legal clinics are available at Legal Aid and community legal services to assist you with these decisions).
3. If you have decided to plead guilty at an early stage
Prepare your plea in mitigation together with any relevant references. Check with prosecution that your record of convictions is as you recall. Plead guilty and give your plea in mitigation.
4. If the matter is more complicated
If you are not sure whether to plead guilty or not guilty), appear in court and seek an adjournment. Following the adjournment, write to police to advise them that you are acting for yourself and require full disclosure by the police of the case against you together with your police record. Once you have that information you can consider whether or not to (a) plead guilty or (b) not guilty and whether you wish to represent yourself in court. You can seek legal advice for the purpose of making that decision and you will have all necessary documents to assist you to make the decision.
5. If you decide to represent yourself and plead guilty
Prepare your plea in mitigation.
6. If you decide to represent yourself and plead not guilty
You enter a plea of not guilty at your next appearance in court and you will be allocated a hearing date.
7. Prepare for the hearing
Consider what witnesses to call, ascertain their availability and arrange for them to attend court. If a witness is necessary but unwilling to attend court for you then the police may call them, or you may have to summons the witness. Court staff can help you with the paperwork for this.
Prepare your questions for the police witnesses. You know what witnesses the police will call as a result of the earlier disclosure of the police case. There is no point trying to conduct your own cross examination without preparation. Even experienced lawyers prepare their client’s case in advance. Your questions should be relevant and adequately put your case to the prosecution witnesses. If you disagree with any aspect of a witness’ testimony, make sure that everyone knows with which aspects you disagree and ask all necessary questions needed to undermine the credibility of that witness.
If you have any legal submissions to make prepare them in a written form to assist you when needed.
8. Prepare your plea in mitigation
Despite your brilliant advocacy you may still be convicted and will then need to give a plea in mitigation immediately following the hearing.