A contest mention is a preliminary hearing that usually occurs prior to a matter being booked in for a contested hearing or plea of not guilty in the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria. It is not always the case that a matter proceeds to a contest mention prior to a contested hearing but it does happen often, particularly in relation complicated matters.
The meaning of a contest mention is set out in Section 55 of the Criminal Procedure Act 2009. This section sets out the types of things usually covered at the hearing, such as:
- time estimates,
- the availability of witnesses,
- a more general discussion about the evidence,
- confirmation of funding and legal representation,
- ensuring that all the evidence is provided to the defence,
- and discussing anything else deemed relevant by the Magistrate.
It was once the case that the informant (the investigating police officer) would attend, but this is becoming less and less common.
Prior to a contest mention, your lawyer will read the brief of evidence, consider any interview that has been conducted, and take detailed instructions from you. This means that all the relevant information can be properly conveyed to the Magistrate.
A variety of things can occur at the contest mention:
- Your lawyer will discuss the weaknesses of the case with the prosecutor to attempt to get the charges withdrawn. This is always the first prize for any criminal lawyer as it saves the client, time, money, and further stress by not proceeding to a contested hearing.
- In appropriate cases, your lawyer will attempt to persuade the Magistrate about the merits of the defence case, to assist in applying pressure on the prosecutor to withdraw charges.
- Your lawyer will discuss the case with the prosecutor in an attempt to narrow the issues, sometimes resulting in some of the charges being withdrawn at an early stage and therefore reducing the hearing time.
- An order may be made by the Magistrate that further evidence be provided if requested by defence and not yet provided by the prosecution. The alternative is always to subpoena the material, to be returned on the date of the contest mention.
- Your lawyer will appear and should be able to communicate to the satisfaction of the Magistrate all the issues raised in the legislation, mentioned at the start of this article.
A contest mention is often a technical stage in the summary criminal trial process. Because of this, you should engage a lawyer if you have to attend this type of hearing. Our advice is to make sure you get a lawyer who is experienced in criminal law. Like all areas of law, criminal law is specialised so it is important that you retain a lawyer who has had extensive experience attending contest mentions. A well-prepared hearing can mean the difference between being found guilty or not guilty.
If you have to attend a contest mention, please call our office today to discuss how one of our experienced criminal lawyers can assist you.