It is trite to observe that the Local Court of NSW is, by far, the busiest criminal jurisdiction of all NSW Courts. According to the Bureau of Statistic, in 2018 the NSW Local Court finalised 128,932 criminal cases. By comparison, the higher jurisdictions combined finalised a comparatively modest 4897 criminal cases in the same year. It is not surprising then that most criminal law practitioners spend the vast majority of their time in the Local Court. What is more surprising is the lack of seminars and literature designed to assist practitioners who appear in this jurisdiction navigate the manifold issues which can arise in Local Court matters.
Those who regularly appear in the Local Court know that it is a very different beast to the higher jurisdictions. While the substantive law is the same in all jurisdictions, the practice and procedure in the Local Court, as well as the practical realities of the resource constraints that all parties to Local Court criminal proceedings are typically faced with, mean that there are certain issues which arise uniquely in the context of Local Court proceedings. This paper seeks to provide Local Court practitioners with (hopefully) helpful, practical guidance to assist in dealing with some of these issues and offer suggestions as to how to more effectively run defended matters in this jurisdiction. To that end, a deliberate effort has been made to keep case references to a minimum in favour practical, pithy advice about matters which arise in the daily practice of the criminal law in the Local Court.