What is the procedure in a Committal Case in the Magistrates’ Court
Court Procedure – Committal Cases
The Magistrates’ Court is divided into two streams:
- Summary Stream – for cases that will begin and end in the Magistrates’ Court
- Committal Stream – for cases that are more serious and will likely proceed to trial in either the Supreme Court of the County Court.
This page provides an outline of the Court hearings for a case proceeding through the Committal Stream of the Magistrates’ Court.
The first hearing date is about the administration of your case. At the filing hearing the Court will set a timetable for your case.
- Date for service of the Hand-up Brief – this is the date that the police are required to provide the brief of evidence to you or your solicitors. The hand-up brief contains a summary of the allegations, the witness statements, copies of exhibits and a transcript of your record of interview.
- Committal mention date – this is the first time you will return to Court. You will be provided with the date for the committal mention during the filing hearing.
The committal mention is the first hearing where the evidence in your case may be discussed. In advance of the committal mention your lawyer is required to file a document called a Form 32 that details whether you intend to plead guilty or not guilty to some or all of the charges.
Where you are intending to plead not guilty, your lawyer will discuss with you whether you should seek leave of the Court to cross examine witnesses at a committal hearing. If you decide to seek a committal hearing, your lawyer will make an application for cross examination at your committal mention.
Ordinarily the committal mention is largely procedural in nature. It is unusual for witnesses to attend Court on this occasion. If you are pleading guilty to the charge, that can occur at the committal mention.
Preparation for Committal Hearing
This is an important time for your lawyers to prepare your case. The delay between committal mention and committal may seem lengthy to you, but your lawyers will consider this a short timeframe. Subpoenas may need to be issued to defence witnesses, reports may be required for expert witnesses and it may be that you provide a list of possible witnesses or evidence that requires investigation. Further disclosure about the conduct of the case will be sought, which might include accessing hospital records for victims or police notes about the police investigation.
A contested committal hearing is an opportunity for your lawyer to cross examine witnesses and test the scope of the witness evidence against you. A committal hearing is a critical point in the case where the strength of the case against you is often clarified.
At the conclusion of the cross examination, a Magistrate will decide if there is evidence of a sufficient weight that a properly instructed jury could convict you. This is a low threshold and most cases proceed to trial in either the County or Supreme Courts. At this stage you are formally committed for trial.