Victoria Legal Aid Handbook for Lawyers

Guideline 1.2 – ‘guilty’ plea in the Magistrates’ Court

Victoria Legal Aid (VLA) may make a grant of legal assistance to a person who has been charged with a criminal offence to be heard in the Magistrates’ Court if:

  • VLA is satisfied there is no reasonable prospect of acquittal or the person or their lawyer (if any) does not provide enough information to support a view of a reasonable prospect of acquittal; and
  • a conviction is likely to result in a term of immediate imprisonment.

Definitions and meanings

Reasonable prospect of acquittal

See Criminal law guideline 1.1 for discussion of the meaning of ‘reasonable prospect of acquittal’.

Likely to result in

See Criminal law guideline 1.1 for a definition of 'likely to result in'.

Breach of previous court order

VLA may make a grant of legal assistance under this guideline to a person charged with breaching a previous court order where the breach is likely to result in a term of immediate imprisonment. A breach of a Community Corrections Order would not ordinarily qualify for assistance.

The traffic prosecution guideline will apply where a traffic offence triggers a breach of a previous court order. Whether or not the previous court order was imposed for earlier traffic offences is not relevant.

Variation of a court order

VLA will not normally make a grant of legal assistance to a person for an application to vary a court order (for example, a community correction order). However, VLA will assess each application on its own facts and circumstances.

Applications for variation, including an application by the Office of Corrections, are not within VLA's guidelines and must be submitted via the standard grants assessment process.

Documentary requirements

Applications under this guideline are within the simplified grants assessment process.

Simplified grants assessment process

Lawyers seeking a grant of legal assistance via the simplified grants assessment process should submit an application via ATLASExternal Link , only after ensuring that the following documents are retained on file unless they are requested by VLA for assessment:

  • a reference to guideline 1.2
  • copies of the charge or charges
  • full details of the person's prior convictions (if any)
  • the lawyer's assessment of the likely penalty having regard to any prior relevant convictions (if any)
  • the lawyer’s assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the defence or defences
  • relevant proof of means (if a waiver does not apply).

Lawyers are also encouraged to complete a summary crime worksheet, a proof of means worksheet and a medical/psychologist/psychiatrist report worksheet (where relevant) for their file.

Reviewed 18 February 2022

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