What is a Committal Hearing?
A committal hearing is where the accused person, through their legal representative, gets to cross examine the witnesses that have made statements against them, in their criminal prosecution. Following the committal hearing a Magistrate will decide whether there is sufficient evidence to send the matter to the County Court or the Supreme Court. The committal hearing is the third stage in the indictable process.
What happens at a Committal Hearing?
At the hearing, an accused person is given an opportunity, through their chosen legal representative, to cross-examine both the complainant and the relevant witnesses relied upon by the Crown before the matter proceeds before a jury. It is an opportunity for the defence counsel to highlight inconsistencies in the prosecution’s case by eliciting testimony that is inconsistent with the witness’s original evidence.
At the conclusion of the committal hearing, a Magistrate must determine whether there is sufficient evidence to support a conviction. If so, the matter will be committed for trial.
Unfortunately, new legislation means that certain matters do not proceed to a committal hearing. Any matter involving an alleged sexual crime in relation to a child or cognitively-impaired complainant who is still deemed to be a child or cognitively impaired at the time the charge is initiated will not proceed to a committal hearing. There are also new laws in relation to certain adult sex complainants and certain matters relating to family violence.
These matters will proceed straight to the County Court (see section 123 of the Criminal Procedure Act in conjunction with section 198 of the Criminal Procedure Act). This situation is very unfortunate, as it means the accused misses an early opportunity to test the credibility of the complainant and supporting witnesses. It also means that the prosecution are unlikely to consider withdrawing the matter at an early stage, which only prolongs the matter and leads to extra unnecessary stress and expense on behalf of the accused.
What is the purpose of a committal hearing?
There are numerous reasons to run a committal hearing. A well-run committal can lead to the following:
- A Magistrate finding that there is insufficient evidence to support a conviction and therefore discharging the matter at the Magistrates’ Court level following the committal hearing.
- The prosecution inviting a submission in relation to a discontinuance, which may lead to a withdrawal prior to the matter proceeding before a jury.
- Inconsistent testimony from prosecution witnesses that assists greatly when the matter proceeds to a jury trial.
If you have to attend a committal and haven’t hired a competent criminal lawyer yet, you should call our office today. Our lawyers combine preparation, talent and experience to achieve the best outcome every time.
Dribbin & Brown Criminal Lawyers run a large number of committal’s every year with outstanding outcomes. There is no-one in Victoria more suited to competently run this type of hearing for you. If you are facing a committal hearing, call our office today.