Charge certification is an integral step in the criminal justice system of NSW. It refers to the formal process through which a prosecuting authority, either the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) or the Commonwealth DPP, examines the brief of evidence presented by the police in a criminal case. Charge Certificates are filed and served in matters where a person is charged with an indictable offence.
Once the brief of evidence has been served, it is the responsibility of the prosecutor to submit and deliver a charge certificate. The charge certificate should adhere to the specifications outlined in Form 1A of the Regulation and must be submitted and delivered within six months from the initial return date.
In the event that the charge certificate is not filed within the designated timeframe, the magistrate is obligated to either discharge the accused or adjourn the proceedings. When deciding on the suitable course of action, it is crucial to take into account the interests of justice.
If a warrant has been issued due to the accused’s non-appearance, the period of six months for filing the charge certificate is extended by the duration between the warrant’s issuance and the accused being presented before the court.
The purpose of charge certification is to ensure that the charges brought against an accused person are appropriate and supported by sufficient evidence.
During charge certification, the ODPP of CDPP evaluates the strength of the evidence, considers the elements of the offence, and assesses the public interest in prosecuting the case. This rigorous assessment helps maintain the integrity of the justice system by preventing frivolous or unfounded charges from proceeding to the District Court of NSW or the Supreme Court of NSW.
The ODPP or CDPP may decide to certify the charges, modify them, or decline certification if the evidence is deemed insufficient or if the public interest does not warrant prosecution.
Brief status committal is a crucial stage in the criminal proceedings of NSW in the Local Court. It serves as a preliminary examination of the prosecution’s evidence against the accused. The procedure for brief status committal or charge certification is outlined in the Criminal Procedure Act 1986.
Brief status committal process helps filter out cases lacking adequate evidence or merit, thereby reducing the burden on the District and Supreme Court of NSW. It ensures that only cases with enough grounds proceed to higher courts for trial or sentence.
During a brief status committal hearing, the court examines the evidence presented by the prosecution. The evidence must be served on the accused. The defence is given an opportunity to test the evidence and cross-examine the prosecution’s witnesses.
The magistrate then evaluates the strength of the prosecution’s case and considers whether there is sufficient evidence to establish a prima facie case against the accused. This stage is a strategic move and you should obtain legal advice before deciding to do this.
If the court finds that the evidence is insufficient, the charges may be dismissed, resulting in the termination of the proceedings. If, however, the court determines that there is a prima facie case, the matter is committed for trial or sentence.
A case conference certificate is a document issued by the court after a case conference has taken place between the prosecution and the defence lawyer. The case conference is an opportunity for both parties to discuss and explore potential avenues for resolving the matter without the need for a full trial.
The purpose of the case conference certificate is to encourage early resolution and reduce the strain on the court system. It signifies that the prosecution and defence have engaged in meaningful discussions to explore the possibility of a plea agreement or other alternative resolutions. The certificate also indicates that the court has been apprised of the progress made during the case conference and provides directions for the subsequent steps in the legal process.
Obtaining a case conference certificate requires active participation and collaboration between the prosecution and the defence. The parties may discuss the strength of the evidence, potential defences, any mitigating factors, and the potential consequences of various outcomes.
In most cases, the contents of case conference material are not permissible as evidence in any legal proceedings. The matters discussed within case conference certificates are regarded as confidential. Any information disclosed during or in connection with the case conference does not constitute a pre-trial disclosure under Section 22A of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999.
With the exception of the proceedings specified in the legislation, it is not obligatory to produce a case conference certificate in any other legal proceedings.
If the magistrate determines that a case conference certificate has not been filed by the specified date due to an unreasonable failure by either party, they have the authority to issue orders. Situations that may warrant such orders include unreasonable failures to:
Should the prosecutor unreasonably fail to fulfil these obligations, the magistrate may discharge the accused or adjourn the committal proceedings. On the other hand, if the accused’s legal representative unreasonably fails to fulfil their obligations, the magistrate may commit the accused for trial or sentence as if a case conference were not required, or adjourn the proceedings.
When considering whether to take such action, the magistrate must carefully consider the interests of justice. In order to determine the appropriate course of action, the magistrate may need to review the contents of the case conference certificate, which will be securely kept by the court in a sealed envelope. It is not necessary to examine the material unless there is an issue raised regarding non-compliance with the case conference obligations.
If you have been charged for indictable offences in NSW and require legal advice, contact our drug offence lawyers in Sydney.