If you are charged with a major indictable offence you will initially appear before a Magistrate in a Magistrates Court for what is called the Committal Process. A solicitor from the State or Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) will have conduct of major indictable offences. Committal is a decision by the Magistrate that the Director of Public Prosecutions has filed sufficient evidence with the Court to justify a trial in a superior court; it is the order remitting a person for trial or plea in a superior court.
Serious criminal charges
Major indictable offences are our most serious category of offences. The maximum penalty that can be imposed for a major indictable matter is life imprisonment.
The committal process in Criminal Law
The Committal Process is a lengthy process and will at minimum take four months. The length of the process is determined by a number of factors including:
- the number of potential witnesses;
- whether there is a complainant who needs to be proofed; and
- things like ballistics and forensics reports which can often take time.
The Committal Process is also the time when your solicitor will attempt to negotiate with the DPP. The Committal Process consists of two important processes:
- Declarations: this is when the Department of Public Prosecutions will lodge with the court all of the evidence that they seek to rely upon and also provide you with a copy; and
- To "Answer the Charge": for you to enter a guilty or not guilty plea.
What happens at arraignment?
Your matter will then be committed to the District Court or Supreme Court for arraignment. Arraignment is the date when you enter your guilty or not guilty plea again but this time before a Judge or Justice of the District Court or Supreme Court. Then your matter will be listed for submissions if you are pleading guilty or a trial if you are pleading not guilty. Your trial will be heard by a jury or judge alone.
Major indictable matters encompass a wide range of matters like:
- Offences against the person: murder, rape and sexual offences against children.
- Offences against property: theft and receiving (over $30,000), aggravated serious criminal trespass (e.g. in place of residence or in company with another person) and aggravated robbery (eg with a weapon or in company with another person).
- Drug offences: manufacture a controlled substance, traffic a controlled substance and imported and importing a controlled substance.
This list is not an exhaustive list but provides you with examples of the type of offences you may be charged with.
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