With Law Week just around the corner, the County Court share a preview of what’s sure to be one of their Courts Open Day highlights. Judge Smallwood will share his insights about the County Koori Court at Courts Open Day on Saturday May 18 at 12pm in the County Court in Melbourne. It’s a rare opportunity to hear from the Judge in charge of the County Koori Court. There’s no need to book, just show up on the day.
The County Koori Court started in the Latrobe Valley in 2009.
It deals with Koori offenders, who are over represented in our courts system, and tries to address the causes of offending and prevent reoffending.
This Court deals with people who are often drug dependant, alcohol dependent, unemployed and quite often mentally ill or severely disconnected.
It only deals with serious offending and frequently people with an extensive criminal history.
The court is now well established in Morwell, and it is planned to extend it to the County Court in Melbourne.
It is no ‘easy’ option for the accused. To be eligible to appear before this court, the offender must:
- Plead guilty and consent to having the case heard in the Koori Court
- Be charged with an offence that does not involve family violence, a sexual offence or breach of an intervention order
- Be willing to come to court and talk about their story.
What happens in court?
There are three stages to each hearing. First stage is the formal proceeding, called arraignment. The Judge is robed and the accused enters a formal guilty plea.
The second stage is the sentencing conversation. The Judge comes down from the bench. The Judge, Elders and respected persons, the accused, lawyer for the accused, prosecutor, Koori Court officer, corrections officer and the family/support people sit around a table.
The accused talks about the offending and the Elders talk to the offender. Everyone has a chance to be heard.
The third stage is where the Judge delivers the sentence. The sentence is in line with any other sentence in the County Court, and is decided by the Judge alone.
The hearings are powerful and confronting for the accused. The evidence suggests that it is successful. The data shows that at the moment, the offenders in the Koori Court have not generally reoffended.