Using this Bench Book

The contents of this Bench Book

The information in this Bench Book covers the entire NSW court system — criminal and civil, and all levels of courts. It will also have application for Tribunals.

In order to avoid clumsy repetition, the word “court” is used to mean all NSW law courts, and the phrase “judicial officer” is used to mean all NSW judges, magistrates and members of the Industrial Relations Commission.

This Bench Book provides NSW judicial officers with:

  • Statistics and information about the different values, cultures, lifestyles, socioeconomic disadvantage and/or potential barriers in relation to full and equitable participation in court proceedings for nine different groups of people.

  • Guidance about how judicial officers might need to take account of this information in court — from the start to the conclusion of court proceedings. It provides guidance only and is not meant to be in any way prescriptive.

Section 1 explains why this information has been provided.

The groups covered in the following 10 Sections are:

  • Section 2 — Aboriginal people

  • Section 3 — People from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds

  • Section 4 — People with a particular religious affiliation

  • Section 5 — People with disabilities

  • Section 6 — Children and young people

  • Section 7 — Women

  • Section 8 — Lesbians, gay men and bisexuals

  • Section 9 — Sex and gender diverse people

  • Section 10 — Self-represented parties

  • Section 11 — Older people

How to use this Bench Book

The Equality before the Law Bench Book, or any Section of it, can be read in its entirety or dipped into as necessary — for example, when in court or during a break in court proceedings.

Each Section and sub-section has been written to “stand alone”. This means that there is a reasonable amount of repetition between the main nine Sections and within each Section.

To enable speedy access, there is a detailed Contents List at the front of each Section, and (in due course) an Index at the back of the Bench Book. In addition, liberal use has been made of bullet points and bold type throughout the Bench Book. Precise cross references (including hyperlinks for the “online” version) have been provided wherever appropriate.

Each Section starts with statistical and/or cultural information about the particular group. It then provides additional information and guidance about how to treat members of that group.

The additional information and guidance part of each Section is always entitled “Practical considerations”. The “Practical considerations” part of each Section follows, as closely as possible, the order in which you might need the information in court. To further enable speedy access, the practical guidance within the “Practical considerations” part of each Section has been placed in boxes.

As indicated at various points throughout the text, you may need to read or dip into more than one Section if you happen to be dealing with a person who comes from more than one group — for example, an Aboriginal person with a disability.

Your feedback

The Judicial Commission of NSW welcomes your feedback on how we can improve the Equality before the Law Bench Book.

The Commission is particularly interested in receiving relevant practice examples (including any relevant model directions) that you would like to share with other judicial officers.

In addition, you may discover errors, or wish to add further references to legislation, case law, specific Sections of other Bench Books, discussion or research material.

Please send your comments, by mail, to:

Editor — Equality before the Law Bench Book

Judicial Commission of NSW

GPO Box 3634 Sydney NSW 2001

or email, to:

Section 13 contains a response sheet with contact details.