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What Evidence Do Police Need To Charge Someone In NSW?

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The process of charging someone with a crime is a critical component of the criminal justice system in NSW. Law enforcement agencies, primarily the NSW police, play a vital role in gathering evidence and building a case against a suspect. However, before charges can be laid, there must be sufficient evidence to support the allegations. 

The Role of Police in Charging

Police officers are responsible for investigating alleged criminal activities and gathering evidence to determine whether there is a reasonable basis for laying criminal charges. The process begins with the receipt of a complaint or the observation of suspicious behaviour. The police then conduct preliminary investigations, which may involve collecting witness statements, examining physical evidence, conducting covert operations and conducting interviews with the suspect and other relevant parties.


In NSW, police need to establish a prima facie case, which means they must have sufficient evidence to provide a reasonable belief that the suspect committed the alleged crime. The evidence required may vary depending on the nature and severity of the offence, but some common elements that contribute to a solid case include:


Witness Statements


Statements from witnesses who saw the alleged offence or have relevant information can be crucial in building a case. Credible and consistent witness testimonies can significantly strengthen the prosecution’s position.


Physical Evidence


Physical evidence, such as DNA samples, fingerprints, weapon, or other tangible items linked to the crime, can serve as powerful evidence in establishing a connection between the suspect and the offence.


Surveillance Evidence


In cases where crimes are captured on surveillance cameras, the footage can provide valuable evidence to support the allegations.


Confessions or Admissions


A voluntary and reliable confession by the suspect can be compelling evidence in charging someone with a crime. However, it must be obtained legally and without coercion.


Expert Statements


In certain cases, expert witnesses may be called upon to provide their professional opinion or analysis, such as forensic experts, medical professionals, or digital analysts.

It is essential to differentiate between the concepts of arrest and charging. While the two are often interconnected, they are distinct stages in the criminal justice process.


  • An arrest occurs when a police officer takes a person into custody based on a reasonable belief that the individual has committed or is in the act of committing a crime. An arrest generally requires probable cause, which is a higher standard than the evidence needed to lay charges. When arrested by police, you have certain legal rights.
  • Charging, on the other hand, is the formal accusation made by the police or prosecution against an individual, asserting that they have committed a specific offence. Charges are typically filed after the police have gathered sufficient evidence to support the allegations. You will usually be taken to the nearest police station and charged with an offence.

Can Police Charge You Without Arresting You?

Yes, in NSW, it is possible for police to charge someone without making an immediate arrest. This process is known as issuing a “Court Attendance Notice” or “Field Court Attendance Notice”. Under certain circumstances, instead of taking the suspect into custody, the police may choose to issue a notice requiring the individual to appear in court at a specified date and time to face the charges.

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Reasons for Issuing a Court Attendance Notice



If the suspect is cooperative and unlikely to pose a threat to public safety or the investigation, the police may issue a Court Attendance Notice rather than making an arrest. This is usually done in cases that are less serious. Accordingly, for less serious offences, such as minor traffic offences or low-level property crimes and minor drug offences police may prefer to issue a notice rather than arrest the individual.


Ongoing Investigations


In some cases, the police may wish to continue their investigation while allowing the suspect to remain at liberty. Issuing a notice allows them to do so without detaining the person.


In situations where it is not practical to arrest the suspect immediately, such as when the police need to locate additional evidence or conduct further inquiries, a Court Attendance Notice can be a viable option.


However, that failing to comply with a Court Attendance Notice can lead to additional legal consequences, including a potential arrest warrant and contempt of court charges.


In New South Wales, police play a vital role in gathering evidence and building a case to support the charges laid against an individual. To charge someone, police need sufficient evidence to establish a prima facie case. While an arrest is often associated with charging, it is possible for police to issue a Court Attendance Notice, allowing the suspect to be charged without immediate arrest. This method is employed in specific situations to maintain public safety and allow ongoing investigations. Understanding the criteria for charging and the potential scenarios where arrests may not occur provides insight into the intricacies of the criminal justice system in NSW.


If you have been charged with a criminal offence, you should obtain legal advice from our criminal lawyers in Liverpool. We will provide you expert free legal advice for first 15 minutes and review your case.

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