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Open Court Hearings in Australia

Discuss about the Separation & Divorce - Family Court of Australia.

Open court hearings are those kinds of hearings which can be witnessed by the public in general. This means that any person has the right to witness what goes on in a court room. Mostly all case proceedings in Australia are conducted in an open court. The principle of open court room had been implemented in Australia through the case of Dickason v Dickason. In this case it was stated by the court that publicity is one of the most general characteristics of the courts which means that it should allow the general public to witness the proceedings. However in certain Limited circumstances the notion of open court is not applied. This is done mainly for the reasons of matters relating to National Security involvement of children, ongoing investigation of a matter and safety concerns. The reason behind not letting the public hear such proceedings is that confidential data may be made available to those who want to misuse it. Further the concept of open court hearing had been introduced for the purpose of ensuring human rights and Public Interest. In the above discuss circumstances closed door hearings ensure that Public Interest as well as authenticity of evidence is maintained.

The family court of Australia (Melbourne) was the court which had been visited by me. This court is governed through the provisions of the Family Law Act 1975. The term jurisdiction in relation to the court signifies the power which a court has in relation to decision making. A court cannot make a decision which is not within the jurisdiction of a court. Jurisdiction ay involve a territorial limit or limits in relation to areas of law (Australia 2018). All matters related to marriage cases in any state except West Australia are dealt with under the jurisdiction of the court. The jurisdiction of the court covers applications which seek nullity or validity of a marriage, maintenance, residence, contact, property issues, divorces and child support. Under section 51(xxii) of the Australian Constitution the Family Law Act 1975 grants such jurisdiction to the court as a commonwealth responsibility as per the 'matrimonial causes' head.

The cases which have been witnessed by me in the court belong under the area of family law. one of the cases which had been witnessed by me in the court was in relation to a divorce petition. The day I visited the court was the final hearing day of this case. Another case which had been witnessed by me in relation to the court visit was in relation to a child custody matter. The proceeding which I witnessed in relation to this case was related to an expert witness been provided.

Jurisdiction and Legislation of Family Court of Australia

The legislations which are associated with the cases which had been observed by in the court are the Family Law Act 1975 and Marriage Act 1961 as they deal with Marriage and Child custody.

Procedures and participation in and beyond the court room- (757 words)

In one of the cases which had been observed by me during the court visit the three participants which were present are the defendant, the lawyer and the magistrate.

The role of lawyer in this case was to present before the court the case against the defendant. The case which the lawyer presents before the court is used by the judges to make a decision in favor or against the defendant. I observed that the lawyer in this case was a female and was dressed will in trousers and shirt along with a blazer. He was explaining to the magistrate based on the relevant sections of the legislations that the defendant who was the father of the child was not capable of handling the custody of the child which was a result of the marriage between him and his ex wife. She said that the defendant had been jailed multiple times.

The person who was the defendant in relation to the case I witnessed was a man who was about the age of 30-32 years. He was dressed in a red t-shirt and blue jeans. He was not able to understand what was going on in the court. This was evident because when the magistrate asked the defendant whether he understood the situation or not he said “No”. He had asked by the lawyer about his capabilities of handling the child. However he was not able to provide a strong reply to the lawyer.

The role of the magistrate in the court is to make a decision based on the evidence provided to him by the lawyers of the parties to the case. The magistrate also has the role of setting out dates in relation to future proceedings and managing any issue related to custody. I observed in the court that the magistrate was very professionally dressed. However his dressing was not as professional as it is seen in other higher courts. He was using language which was appropriate to be used before the audience. He was also using several legal terms when he was addressing the lawyers of the parties. He was ensuring that the decorum within the court is maintained by the people present in it as there were significant emotions involved in this family law proceeding related to child custody. He was patiently listening to the case which was being presented by the lawyer of the person making the claim. He behaved very impartially while dealing with the lawyers and showed no biasness at all.

Key Participants in Court Proceedings

While witnessing the case I observed that everyone was addressing the magistrate by the term 'your honour'. Although it is not necessary to do but every person in the court provides respect to the magistrate by addressing him or her with a respect full name such as sir, madam or your honour (Australia 2018). When the magistrate came to the court room everyone stood up and the same happened when he left the court room.

Support services are provided by the Victoria Legal Aid to those people who have cases in courts based on the eligibility framework which the organization has. People who do not have the capacity to afford a lawyer can approach the Legal Aid services for help. When such people are provided with legal help from professionals they have a significant chance of having a strong case which they would not have otherwise. As a support service translators are also provided by the family court to those people who have a problem in understanding English.

Those parties who are provided help by social workers are allowed to be accompanied by such social workers who help the parties to navigate through the various processes of the court (Opp.vic.gov.au 2018). These workers can provide support to the parties by helping them get moral support and also arrange transport for them to reach the court (Australia 2018).

As I discussed earlier the defendant of the preceding which I had observed had been jailed for 3 instances in last 2 years. The primary reason for which he had been jailed was for Alcohol related crimes. The defendant has an issue in relation to alcohol addiction. Social workers in this situation have a huge role to play towards helping such person avoid the addiction (Opp.vic.gov.au 2018). They can provide support to such persons by rehabilitating them in an environment where they can get rid of the addiction. They can also ensure that such persons are provided effective counseling (Opp.vic.gov.au 2018).

I was very excited in relation to my court visit to the family court of Melbourne. When I reached the court I was very anxious and started having doubts that whether it would be appropriate for me to enter the court building. When I left the court I was feeling very good about myself that I had been able to successfully witness Court proceedings. However I was also worried and a little bit tensed about the fact that I had to process all the information which I have witnessed by recalling them. When I entered the court I was thoroughly checked by the security guards and they made me feel like a terrorist. I have never been checked like this before in my life. They started interrogating me whether I had any kind of weapons with me or not. Further when I saw the agony of the defendant in the child custody case who was about to lose the case along with the custody of his child I felt very bad about the defendant. However my common sense made me believe that it was in the best interest of the child to be transferred to her mother as the father of the child was an alcohol addict and had been jailed 3 times last year for his unruly behaviour. I felt very proud while witnessing the court proceedings. This was because I was able to learn about various aspects of the society. I came to know how impartial the judges are in the court and the only rely on evidence and nothing else before making a decision.

The most distress which had been faced by me in relation to the court visit was the interrogation and checking which took place when I was entering the court building. I feel that this form of checking needs to be simplified so that common public is not afraid of entering into the court building.

In one of the court proceedings I saw that the magistrate was not able to control a high pitch quarrel which was taking place between the lawyers of the defendant and the claimant. This was very disrespectful on the part of the lawyers and I feel that they must be provided strict warning for restricting themselves from such actions.

One of the most important reason because of which I want courts and tribunals to be open to the public is that this system would ensure the accountability of the courts in relation to the decision which is being made by them. In addition the common public would be able to know how the legal system of the country works which is of significant importance in life of every citizen. Where an open court system is not observed any situation in relation to miscarriage of justice would not come before the public and there would be no ratification in relation to such matters. Therefore I strongly believe that court should be open to the public.

Reference

Australia, F. (2018). Acts - Family Court of Australia. [online] Familycourt.gov.au. Available at: https://www.familycourt.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/fcoaweb/rules-and-legislation/acts/ [Accessed 9 Apr. 2018].

Australia, F. (2018). Separation & Divorce - Family Court of Australia. [online] Familycourt.gov.au. Available at: https://www.familycourt.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/fcoaweb/family-law-matters/separation-and-divorce/ [Accessed 9 Apr. 2018].

Australia, F. (2018). Family Law in Australia - Family Court of Australia. [online] Familycourt.gov.au. Available at: https://www.familycourt.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/fcoaweb/family-law-matters/family-law-in-australia/ [Accessed 9 Apr. 2018].

Australia.gov.au. (2018). Family law | australia.gov.au. [online] Available at: https://www.australia.gov.au/information-and-services/public-safety-and-law/family-law [Accessed 9 Apr. 2018].

Opp.vic.gov.au. (2018). Social workers - Office of Public Prosecutions. [online] Available at: https://www.opp.vic.gov.au/Careers-at-the-OPP/Our-roles/Social-workers [Accessed 9 Apr. 2018].

Cases

Dickason v Dickason

Legislations

The Australian Constitution (Cth)

The Family Law Act 1975 (Cth)

Marriage Act 1961 (Cth)

Cite This Work

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