What is a Committal Mention?
A committal mention is the second step in the committal process, occurring after a filing hearing and before a full committal hearing. In Victoria, serious crimes (called indictable offences) generally proceed through the committal stream, beginning in the Magistrates’ Court. During committal proceedings, the Magistrates’ Court, where charges are initially filed.
At a committal mention, your lawyer will indicate to the court whether you intend to plead guilty or not guilty in relation to your matter. This will only occur once your lawyer has considered the brief of evidence concerning the charges against you.
The magistrate may offer a summary hearing, commit the accused for trial in a higher court, determine an application to cross-examine witnesses or make other orders or directions.
What is the purpose of a committal mention?
The purpose of the committal mention is for the defence and the prosecution to discuss areas of disagreement and inform the Magistrate how the matter will proceed. The committal mention is an incredibly important part of the indictable process.
At the committal mention stage, your lawyer can do the following;
- consider the evidence and assess the strengths and weaknesses of your case;
- consider what materials the prosecution might have in their possession that might be helpful to you and obtain them;
- consider whether subpoenas will be required, for example, to obtain materials that might be considered confidential;
- and, most importantly, consider and provide advice to you in relation to all the ancillary ramifications of how your matter will proceed – that means what all the potential consequences are for you regarding pleading not guilty or guilty.
It is usually the case that 6 weeks prior to the committal mention taking place, the prosecution will provide the brief of evidence to your nominated legal representative. Upon receipt of the evidence, your lawyer should provide you with a copy of that evidence. Your lawyer will then consider what further evidence needs to be sought from the prosecution. Following analysis and receipt of any further materials, your lawyer will schedule a conference and take you through the prosecution’s version of events. This will provide you with the opportunity to give your instructions in relation to the evidence.
Once instructions have been finalised as part of the committal mention process, a Form 32 must be filed and served on the Court and the prosecution 7 days prior to the hearing (the exception here relates to matters that require a form 32A). The Form 32 is an extremely important document, as it sets the tone for the way your matter will proceed. The forensic decisions made when submitting a Form 32 to the Court are important.
What happens at the committal mention?
On the day of the committal mention, your lawyer will appear on your behalf and advocate your position to the Magistrate. There will have been discussions with the prosecution prior to appearing. All areas of disagreement will be discussed before the Magistrate.
At this point, one of five things will occur:
- Your matter will be adjourned for a further committal mention or committal case conference. This basically means that the process is put on hold, often to allow further negotiations to occur.
- Your matter will be adjourned to a contested committal (committal hearing). If this occurs leave must be sought to cross-examine relevant witnesses at the committal mention stage.
- Your matter will be adjourned for a summary jurisdiction application which is heard at a further committal mention.
- Your matter will be adjourned directly for either trial or guilty plea in the County Court or Supreme Court.
- You matter will be adjourned directly to the County Court, where a form 198A will be required prior to a first directions hearing. This only relates to complainants who were cognitively impaired or a child at the time of charge.
As you can see, the committal mention process is very complicated and confusing.
Should I get a lawyer?
You would be very foolish if you didn’t. There are many questions that need to be considered in relation to every serious indictable case.
- Were any of the witnesses children at the time the criminal proceeding commenced?
- Do any of the witnesses have a cognitive impairment?
- Can the charges be dealt with in the summary jurisdiction?
These are just some of the questions that need to be answered for you to be properly represented. Many generalist lawyers don’t understand the relevance of these questions, which leads to embarrassment at Court, a loss of credibility with the prosecution, and ultimately a bad outcome in your case.
Don’t do yourself a disservice. If you are facing serious charges, you should call our office today. Our defence lawyers at Dribbin & Brown Criminal Lawyers practice exclusively in criminal law. The earlier you engage our services, the sooner we can start preparing to achieve your best outcome.