A committal hearing is heard in the Local Court as all matters start in the Local Court. Matters either stay or move to the District Court or Supreme Court of NSW. It is a process whereby the Magistrate will determine if the prosecution has enough evidence against the defendant and go to trial. The evidence must satisfy a reasonable jury that the evidence against you is beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant has committed the indictable offence. If the Magistrate finds that there is a reasonable possibility that a properly instructed jury would convict the defendant of the offence, the Magistrate will commit the defendant to trial. However, the matter can be withdrawn or dismissed if the Magistrate is not satisfied that the prosecution has enough evidence against the defendant.
Prior to the EAGP Scheme, the procedure for a committal process is below. The EAGP scheme has changed this procedure with additional requirements to be complied with before the committal process.
All criminal matters in New South Wales start at the Local Court and then either stay at the Local Court or move to a higher court such as the District Court or the Supreme Court. Once the defendant has been charged with an offence, the matter will be listed for mention at the Local Court.
On the first mention, the Magistrate will make orders for the prosecution to provide the defendant with a set a date for brief service. A brief service is whereby the Police Informant will have to hand the defendant’s lawyers all evidence they gathered against the defendant. Once the brief has been served, the Magistrate will set down the matter for a Committal Mention.
Now that the brief of evidence has been served, the Magistrate will set a date for a Committal Mention. A Committal Mention will take place 6 weeks to 3 months after the brief of evidence has been served. This will allow ample time for the Prosecution and the Defence to read the brief and identify any issues or gaps in the case.
A criminal defence lawyer will identify and advise the defendant of the gaps and issues in the prosecution case. The lawyer will seek instructions from the defendant about whether they wish to plead guilty or not guilty as the Court will require both the prosecution and the Defence to decide how they wish the matter to proceed. If the defendant pleads guilty, the matter will be next listed for sentence, and if the defendant wishes to plead not guilty, the matter will be listed for a Committal Hearing.
At the committal hearing, a solicitor/ prosecutor from the Director of Public Prosecutions will appear on behalf of the police. The prosecutor will have an opportunity to summon the witnesses to provide evidence and a summary of evidence to the Magistrate. The defence lawyer will have an opportunity to cross-examine the witness.
The Defence lawyers will also have an opportunity to call up their witnesses. If they do decide to call up any witnesses, the prosecution will have an opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses. The defendant can also be called up to the stand, however, they have a right not to provide or give any evidence as it is not compulsory.
Both the prosecution and the defence lawyers will wrap up their argument by providing a statement as to whether there is enough evidence for the matter to proceed to trial. The Defence will have to provide an argument as to the lack of evidence the prosecution has against the defendant and how it will not satisfy a properly instructed Jury.
Once the Magistrate has heard the statements provided at the committal hearing, the Magistrate will make a judgment as to whether the matter will proceed to trial or the charges will be withdrawn.
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