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Photograph of Ross Hyams.

The Ross Hyams perspective

Ross Hyams is an educator and law practitioner. Here, Ross presents his unique perspective on the essential things you need to know if you’ve been charged with a criminal offence.

Being charged with a criminal offence is a serious matter. It is very important that you reach out and get legal advice because criminal matters have consequences beyond the immediate risk of having to have to pay a fine or go to gaol.

Whilst we can not give you any general legal advice, we can provide you with these helpful suggestions that could make accessing legal help more easy for you.

We acknowledge that some countries might not have any free or accessible services available.

Criminal law essentials

Community legal centres and citizens’ advice bureaus are another kind of free legal service for the community that can also help with criminal matters, these are separate from government legal services and are independently run not-for-profit organisations. They can normally offer advice and sometimes representation for less serious criminal matters. Some of them can run your case all the way to a hearing and arrange legal representation for you in court.

Pro bono lawyers

Many lawyers want to help people in the community, and many offer their services for free for particularly vulnerable or marginalised people or groups. They do this as a type of professional charity and is known as ‘pro bono’ (Latin: ‘for the public good’). Lawyers’ associations and professional bodies may be a good starting point to asking for pro bono legal help.

Self-representation advice services

Standing up in court and representing yourself is hard, and even though it is best to have a lawyer for criminal matters, some courts and other not-for-profit community groups have advice services for people to help them understand the rules and process of the court and offer other forms of non-legal help and support.

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This article is from the free online course:

Law for Non-Lawyers: Introduction to Law

Monash University