Our lawyers assist people with criminal prosecutions started by the police, the Director of Public Prosecutions, and the Department of Corrective Services; and with offences under the:
- Animal Welfare Act 2002 (WA)
- Dog Act 1976 (WA), and
- Public Transport Authority Act 2003 (WA).
If charges will be dealt with by a magistrate in the Magistrates Court or Children's Court, our duty lawyers can give clients advice about the charges and their options, explain how to progress the case, and help prepare them for what can happen in court. Usually, the duty lawyer can then appear with the client in court that day.
If the person decides to plead guilty to a charge, the duty lawyer can speak on their behalf at sentencing. If the client decides to plead not guilty, the duty lawyer can help progress the matters towards a hearing, but cannot represent clients at trial.
There is limited time to speak to clients before court so appointments with duty lawyers are often short. The duty lawyer might adjourn the charges so the client can book a longer appointment for legal advice at one of our offices before their next court date. Depending on the situation, the duty lawyer might negotiate with the prosecution on a client's behalf to have facts or charges amended.
If a person's charges are particularly serious or complex, or will need to be transferred to a higher court, the duty lawyer can help them apply for a grant of aid if appropriate. The duty lawyer will be able to explain on the day what help they can give to progress each case.
Legal Aid WA provides duty lawyers in:
- START Court - for adult offenders who have mental health issues
- Drug Court - for offenders who have substance abuse issues
- Family Violence Courts - for offenders with charges related to family violence issues
- the Intellectual Disability Diversion Program - for offenders with cognitive impairments
You can read more about these specialist criminal courts and programs on the Magistrates Court website.
If a matter is beyond the scope of our duty lawyer service, it may be possible to get ongoing representation under a grant of aid. This includes cases that will be dealt with in the District Court, Supreme Court, or before the President of the Children's Court, where a duty lawyer service is not available. Whilst the majority of grants of aid are for representation on a plea of guilty, grants are available to take cases to trial if there is suitable merit.
Grants of aid for charges that are to be dealt with in the Magistrates Court are only available in limited situations having special complexity or seriousness.
Our lawyers are available to give confidential advice over the phone to people who have been arrested and are about to be interviewed by police as part of a criminal investigation. The advice helps people understand their legal rights in relation to answering questions from police, the caution that will be given by officers, the implications of giving information during the interview, and to help ensure their rights whilst in custody have been respected. We do not provide lawyers to sit in on police interviews.
Our appeals team advises and represents clients concerning appealing decisions on criminal charges from the Magistrates Court, District Court, or Supreme Court. The team obtains a copy of the relevant documents and transcript. A lawyer then reviews the case and advises whether or not there is merit in pursuing an appeal.
Our Youth Law Team may also be able to assist young people to have convictions or sentences imposed by JPs or magistrates in the Children's Court reviewed by the President of the Children's Court, and to commence appeals in the Supreme Court.
Paralegals from our Perth office provide a visiting service to all metropolitan prisons. The service does not offer legal advice to prisoners, but can:
- assist with applications for a grant of aid (including requests for reconsideration or review)
- take instructions about the charges and the client's personal circumstances, to be passed onto our duty lawyer service
- provide basic information about the law
- provide copies of Legal Aid WA resources
- refer prisoners to other Legal Aid WA or community services.
Clients who are remanded in custody and need legal advice on complex or serious charges may be able to speak to a lawyer from our Duty Lawyer Team in Perth via video link or Skype.
Prison visits and appointments for legal advice to regional prisoners are done by staff in our regional offices.
To find out what help we can give with criminal matters, call the Infoline or contact your nearest Legal Aid WA office.