County / Supreme Court
What is a Directions Hearing?
This is the first stage in the trial process. It is primarily aimed at case management and exists to ensures so the court can make enquiries if the matter is ready to proceed.
It is the forum to discuss the direction of the trial, to check the availability of witnesses, whether adequate funding is in place and to indicate any pre-trial orders being sought.
A Judge may order a Directions Hearing at any time except during the trial. (Section 179 of the Criminal Procedure Act 2009). It may be the case that there are multiple Directions Hearings before the matter proceeds to a jury trial.
What is a Plea of Guilty?
You may chose to plead guilty to the charges at any time.
If you have indicated an intention to plead guilty and the Prosecution has filed an indictment then the you may be arraigned at the Directions Hearing (section 180 of the CPA).
What is a Jury Trial?
A trial commences when the accused pleads not guilty on arraignment in the presence of the jury panel (section 210 of the CPA).
What is Pre-trial Disclosure?
Once you have been committed to trial the Prosecution has an obligation to provide a copy of evidence and statements admitted in evidence at the committal along with a recording admitted in evidence.
An indictment must be filed by the Prosecution within 6 months of the date of the committal (section 171 of the CPA). An exception is if the matter relates to a sexual offence, in which case different time limits apply.
The Prosecution must also serve on the Accused a copy of the indictment. If an indictment contains multiple charges they will be heard together, unless the Court orders otherwise.
The Director of Public Prosecution must serve on the Accused, by personal service, a copy of the indictment. This must be at least 14 days prior to the date listed on the summons (section 175 of the CPA).
Crown Opening and Notice of Pre-trial Admissions
The Prosecution (also known as the Crown) must serve the Crown Opening on you or your legal representative at least 28 days prior to the date the trial is set to commence (section 182 of the CPA).
The Prosecution is required to set out the manner in which it will put the case against the Accused. It must also set out in the Opening the acts, facts, matters and circumstances that will be relied upon in order to support a finding of guilt. (section 182(2)(a) and (b) of the CPA).
The Prosecution must also provide a notice of Pre-trial Admissions that identify the statements of the witnesses whose evidence, in the opinion of the Prosecution, should be entered into evidence without further proof (section 182(3) of the CPA).
Similarly the legal representative for the defence is required to give a response to the Prosecution’s Opening and Pre-trial Admission at least 14 days before the trial is set to commence (section 183 of the CPA).
The response of the Accused to the summary of the Prosecution’s Opening must identify the acts, facts, matters and circumstances with which issue is taken and the basis on which issue is taken (section 183(2) of the CPA).
The response of the Accused to the notice of Pre-trial Admissions must indicate what evidence is agreed to be admitted as evidence without further proof and what evidence is in dispute. If disputed, the basis on which issue has been taken must also be indicated. (section 182(3) of the CPA).
In accordance with section 210 of the CPA, a trial commences once you have been arraigned in the presence of the jury panel as outlined in section 217 of the CPA.
What time limits apply?
The trial must commence:
- Within 12 months of the day the person is committed for trial (section 211 of the CPA); or
- if no committal proceeding is held, within 12 months of the day on which the indictment against the person was filed; or
- if a new trial is ordered by the Court of Appeal, within 6 months of the day on which the order was made; or
- if the period referred to in CPA section 211(a), (b) or (c) or any extension of that period was extended under CPA section 247 within the extended period.
If the matter relates to a sexual offence then the trial must commence within 3 months of the day on which the person was committed for trial (section 212 of the CPA).
The next step is that the Accused will be arraigned before the Jury (section 215 of the CPA). The Accused will have been arraigned when the Judge asks them whether they are the person named on the indictment, reads out each charge on the indictment and asks them whether they plead guilty or not guilty to the charge.
If the Accused remains silent when being arraigned and refuses to answer to the charges then the Court may enter a plea of guilty on their behalf (section 221 of the CPA).
On the day of trial the Prosecution will give an opening address (section 224 of the CPA). This is in order to address to the Jury the Prosecution’s case against the Accused before any evidence is given in the trial. Similarly the Accused’s legal representative will respond immediately with a response to the Prosecution opening (section 222 of the CPA).
For evidence to be admissible it must be relevant and have been obtained legally by the Prosecution (The Crown). The evidence admitted will be given in the manner outlined by section 232 of the CPA. Evidence in chief will be given and witnesses will be cross-examined. Expert witnesses may also be called or their reports tendered as evidence to the Court.
When the evidence has been given the Prosecution is then entitled to give a ‘summing up’ for the Jury prior to the Defence closing address (section 234 of the CPA). The Defence will then also sum up the evidence for the Jury in the closing address (section 235 of the CPA).
The Trial Judge will give directions to the Jury so that they may properly consider the verdict (section 237 of the CPA). The verdict will then be delivered by the Jury and the Accused will be found guilty or not guilty in respect to each charge named on the indictment.
When the Jury delivers a verdict finding the Accused guilty of an offence then at that moment the Accused is found guilty unless the Judge sets aside the verdict. (section 253(b) of the CPA).