Legal Personnel

Legal Personnel

Magistrates and Judges

– A magistrate decides cases in local court, while a judge decided cases in higher courts. In criminal cases a judges role differs depending on whether he or she is sitting in a trial by jury or a summary hearing. In both types of cases the magistrate/judges job is to: ensure trial is conducted legally, decide questions which arise about the law and impose punishment

– In a summary hearing they also decide the guilt or innocence of the accused. In trial by jury they explain the law to the members of the jury and outlines the questions which must be answered by them for them to reach a verdict.

Police Prosecutors

– A specially trained officer who usually prosecutes a case in the local court

Director of Public Prosecutions

– The holder of a government office responsible for prosecuting indictable offences heard summarily or in front of a jury. For these offences a barrister generally prosecutes the case.

Public Defenders

– Legal practitioners appointed by the NSW government to represent accused people in the district and supreme court, only those accused of serious offences. Only available to people who have been granted legal aid.


· Presides over the local court

· Appointed by the Chief Magistrate


· Conducts trial according to the rules and principals of law

· Must remain impartial at all times


· Police Prosecutor

  • Present in the local court
  • Specially trained police officers

· Director of Public Prosecution (DPP)

  • Crown prosecutors (barristers)
  • Helps the court discover the truth, not get a conviction
  • Non-political appointment


· Represents the accused, counters the argument of the prosecution, and casts doubt in the mind of the jury/judge/magistrate.

· Public Defenders Office

  • Represents those granted legal aid.


· Established to ensure that people unable to afford legal representation have access to a lawyer.

· Funded by the NSW Government.

· LAC offers free legal advice for 15 minutes on any legal issue.

· Assistance beyond this level requires a formal application

  • Means – assessment of the person’s ability to afford their own representation
  • Merit – determines the likelihood of the case succeeding
  • Jurisdiction – what branch of law the case is classified as
  • The means and merit tests are not applied in children’s cases


· Person who is responsible for the administrative work in a local court.


· Responsible for administrative work in a higher court.


· Maintains order in the court and administers the oath to witnesses.


· Decides the verdict.


Extract from Legal Studies Stage 6 Syllabus. © 2009 Board of Studies NSW.