Committal Stream (Serious Crime)
If a matter is destined to proceed in the Committal stream, (i.e. it will eventually end up in either the County Court or the Supreme Court) then a certain procedure applies.
What is a filing hearing?
A filing hearing is the first stage in committal proceedings.
Pursuant to section 102 of the Criminal Procedure Act 2009 (CPA) a filing hearing must occur within 7 days of your charges being filed with the Court if you have been remanded in custody or have been granted bail. If you are on summons for the charges then a filing hearing must occur within 28 days of the charge having been filed with the Court.
The Magistrate will fix a date for the committal mention, fix a date for the hand-up brief to be served and make any other order that is appropriate (section 101 of the CPA).
The hand-up brief contains all the evidence that the police will seek to rely on in order to prove their case. The Informant is required to serve a copy of the hand-up brief (section 107 of the CPA) and it must be served at least 42 days prior to the committal mention (section 108 of the CPA).
Additionally, a case direction notice (also called a Form 32) must be filed at least 7 days prior to the committal mention, outlining which witnesses the defence wish to be called and any other evidence or material they wish to obtain from the prosecuting agency. (section 118 of the CPA).
What is a committal mention?
The committal mention is the second step in the committal process. It is a preliminary hearing that takes place prior to the full contested committal hearing. Any matters in dispute will be discussed.
The Magistrate may hear and determine an application to cross-examine witnesses, set a date for the committal hearing, or make any other orders he/she deems appropriate (section 125 of the CPA).
A committal mention must be held within 6 months after the commencement of the criminal proceeding for the offence (section 126(1)(b) of the CPA). An exception is if the matter relates to a sexual office, in which case a committal mention must be held within 3 months after the commencement of criminal proceedings (section 126(1)(a) of the CPA).
The Magistrate may order a longer period for the holding of committal mention if it is in the interest of justice to do so (section 126(2) of the CPA).
What is a committal case conference?
A committal case conference, much like a summary case conference, is a case management tool. It is used to advance the matter and encourage a timely and efficient resolution of the issues in relation to the matter.
A committal case conference provides a forum that allows the Prosecution, Defence and Magistrate to identify and discuss the issues and the best way to resolve them.
A committal case conference should be held on the same day as the committal mention. In order to promote an open discussion of the matter in question, anything that is said or done during the committal case conference, as well as any documents prepared solely for the purposes of that conference, will be deemed inadmissible as evidence unless all parties agree otherwise. (Section 127 of the CPA.)
What is a committal hearing?
At the committal hearing the Magistrate will hear evidence and make a determination as to whether the evidence is strong enough to support a conviction (section 128 of the CPA).
At this stage the Magistrate may offer a summary hearing or determine a summary hearing (section 30 of the CPA). If the Court allows the matter to proceed as a summary hearing, it may use the oral evidence of witnesses, witness statements and documents or exhibits tendered in the committal as evidence in the summary hearing with the consent of the accused. The Court must call or recall any witnesses who are required for cross-examination and the proceeding otherwise continues as a summary hearing.
Or the Magistrate may make any other order that the court deems appropriate.
This is the last hearing that will take place in the Magistrates’ Court before the matter proceeds to a higher jurisdiction.
At the completion of the committal hearing the Court must make one of the following orders (section 141(4) of the CPA):
- If the Court deems the evidence to be insufficient to support the conviction of an indictable office then it must discharge the Accused; or
- If it determines that the evidence is sufficient to support a conviction then it must commit the Accused to trial.