Most people seeking legal assistance are charged with an Indictable Offence. The best criminal lawyer will consider whether it is in your interest to have the case heard summarily (in the Magistrates Court) or proceed to trial (in the County Court).
What is an Indictable Offence?
Under the Crimes Act 1958, ‘indictable offences’ covers a range of
- drug offences
- armed robbery
Generally, if you are charged with an indictable offence, the matter will commence in the Magistrates Court. But some indictable offences may only be heard by a Judge as a Plea hearing or a Trial in the County or Supreme Courts.
Indictable Offences Heard Summarily
If you are charged with an indictable offence that is eligible to be heard summarily, you will be asked if you consent to the case being dealt with in the Magistrates Court jurisdiction. There, it will be dealt with either as a Plea of Guilty or proceed to a Contested Hearing.
Advantages to having indictable offences heard summarily can include:
- the cost of your representation
- the speed of resolution and, in many cases;
- the likely lesser penalty in the event of a conviction
If you elect to proceed with your case in the Magistrates Court as a contested hearing (pleading not guilty), then the Magistrate must determine what is admissible in the police case as evidence of guilt and whether on the facts you are guilty “beyond reasonable doubt”. Some cases may require the Magistrate to rule certain evidence as inadmissible in the police prosecution case. The Magistrate must then put the inadmissible evidence out of mind and judge your case on the evidence that is admissible.
Proceeding to Trial
In some cases, it may be to your advantage to refuse summary jurisdiction. The best criminal lawyers will be able to advise on whether the issues in your case justify taking the case to a higher court. If you elect to have the charges determined by a Judge and Jury, the case will be placed in the Indictable stream of the Magistrates Court to be committed for trial.
There may be advantages in taking a charge to trial. The Judge will determine the law and how it is applied to the evidence. The Jury, following the law as directed by the Judge, is the sole arbiter of the facts and determine whether the allegation or charge has been proved “beyond reasonable doubt”. The Jury will not have to “put out of mind” evidence a Judge rules inadmissible in the trial as these considerations take place in the absence of the jury.
Taking a case to trial may offer forensic advantages but you can expect a trial to take longer and the delay to be more significant. It necessarily may involve additional costs. The sentencing considerations are not restricted as in the Magistrates Court and Judges are not restrained other than by the maximum penalty for any offence and can impose a much higher penalty where appropriate.
The best criminal lawyer will advise you of the options, having considered the strength of the police case and the nature of any evidence.
Slades and Parsons Solicitors have Accredited Criminal Specialists, the best criminal defence lawyers, who are available to provide legal advice and representation in all criminal cases.
Slades & Parsons are available to take your call 24 hours a day.
We are highly experienced in all aspects of criminal law. For further assistance please do not hesitate to contact our office.