Skip to 0 minutes and 4 secondsLLOYD ENGLAND: Some courts have duty lawyers you can see free on the day of your case. Is that a good idea?

Skip to 0 minutes and 12 secondsROSS HYAMS: It is a good idea if you're running out of time. The more prepared you are in advance, the better you are. A good thing about duty lawyers is that they are free. So it won't cost you any money to see them, but they don't have a lot of time to prepare. And, often, they're not available, they're doing other things, they're seeing other people. So it's a bit of luck if you get them to act for you. And they may not be able to do that. So you're better off being more prepared, in advanced, if you can be.

Skip to 0 minutes and 40 secondsBut, look, they're very good lawyers, and they provide a service if you're in a hurry, and you have to prepare beforehand.

Skip to 0 minutes and 47 secondsLLOYD ENGLAND: Great. What's unique about community legal centres? And what types of criminal matters are they able to help people with?

Skip to 0 minutes and 53 secondsROSS HYAMS: They are able to help people with most criminal matters that aren't particularly serious. There's a good chance, if you are going to gaol-- which you may not know until you seek help-- they probably can't act for you. They probably will send you to a private lawyer. What's great about them is that they're free. And they work very hard for people. And they are staffed by people who are very dedicated to their work, and who want to get the best result they can for you. So they'll work very hard for you and with you.

Skip to 1 minute and 20 secondsThe other expectation they'll have on you is that you do a but of self help, so they'll require you to take the lead in running your case. They won't do everything for you. They'll ask you to go and get doctors' certificates or go out and get a report or that sort of thing-- because they have limited resources. Their funding is limited. So there will be an expectation. You'll be actively involved with running your case. But they will work very hard for you and get the best result that's best for you.

Skip to 1 minute and 45 secondsLLOYD ENGLAND: Is there any other ways people can access advice?

Skip to 1 minute and 49 secondsROSS HYAMS: Well there are pro bono services that lawyers will provide to you. They are free services. Again, I come back to community advice bureaus-- will assist you, probably giving you a direction as to where you should go next. Again, there are online resources. You have to be a bit careful about that, because the internet can be a source of misinformation, rather than information sometimes. But free lawyers are a great service. And I know lawyers will provide their work for free. So don't think it's either myself, by myself, or an expensive lawyer. There are a lot of other ways you can get assistance.

Skip to 2 minutes and 22 secondsLLOYD ENGLAND: Great.

The Ross Hyams Perspective

Ross Hyams is an educator and law practitioner. Here, Ross shares with Lloyd 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.

Want to learn more?

Go to Downloads to access a checklist of criminal law essentials.


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This video is from the free online course:

Law for Non-Lawyers: Introduction to Law

Monash University