Local Court Procedure in a Defended Hearing
Here is an article that explains, very generally, the main aspects of a Local Court Criminal Hearing.
Local Court Procedure before the Hearing Date
The Service of the Brief of Evidence:
Before a local court hearing is held, certain procedures must take place. The Prosecution must always serve the “brief of evidence” upon the defence before the hearing commences. How long before? Generally, the Prosecution is required to serve the entire brief of evidence upon the defence at least 14 days before the hearing. However, there are exceptions to the rule. For instance, in traffic matters, the Prosecution can hand you the brief of evidence on the morning of the hearing!
The Prosecution very often serve evidence late, and not in accordance to orders of the court. Courts are generally very lenient on the Prosecution when evidence is not served in accordance with the timetables that are set by the court. In Sydney metropolitan courts in general, that are some of the busiest court in Australia, this is a regular occurrence, and is generally accepted as the norm by all parties.
Once the Brief of Evidence is Served:
Once the Defence have received the brief of evidence in criminal cases, they are required to either confirm the plea of not guilty, and continue to a defended hearing, or enter a plea of guilty, and proceed to sentencing. Sentencing can take place on the day of the plea of guilty, if the matter is relatively straightforward, or can be adjourned to another date.
Pleading ‘Not Guilty’
If a defendant persists with a plea of not guilty to some, or all of the charges, those charges will proceed to a defended hearing in the Local Court. The case will be adjourned for hearing, with a certain amount of time allocated for the hearing. Most Local Court criminal hearings last at most a few hours. However, complicated local court hearings can run for days, depending on the number of witnesses that are required to give evidence.
The Hearing Day
On the hearing day, the case will appear before a Magistrate, who will hear all of the evidence presented by both parties. The Prosecution will present it’s evidence first. Evidence can be presented in the form of documentation (without the need for the witness who wrote the document to attend), or oral evidence (where the witness testifies).
The Prosecution presents each witness, and their evidence. Once their evidence is completed, the Defence is given the opportunity to cross examine the witness. Once that is completed, the Prosecution is then permitted to ‘re-examine’ the witness. This gives the Prosecution the opportunity to clarify any issues that may arise out of the Defence cross-examination.
Following the completion of the Prosecution case and the hearing of all of its evidence, the Defence is then given the opportunity to present it’s case, including the presentation of it’s witnesses. The same rules apply as with the Prosecution witnesses just mentioned.
Submissions by Prosecution and Defence:
Following the hearing of all of the witnesses for the Prosecution and the Defence, both parties are given the opportunity to state their arguments, on why or why not the offence/s should be found proven beyond reasonable doubt.
In the Local Court, both the Prosecution and Defence are expected to deliver their final submissions immediately upon the completion of the evidence. This can be a very challenging task!
The Magistrate’s Decision:
Generally, in the more straightforward Local Court defended hearings, Magistrates will have made up their mind about the guilt or innocence of the Defendant following hearing the submissions of the Prosecution and Defence. They will need little time to deliver their decision. This is the most nerve-racking time for a defence lawyer!
Local Court Defended Hearings can become very complicated. It is foolish for a layperson to think that they can competently represent themselves in a defended hearing.
Call LY Lawyers on 1300 595 299, the experts in Defending our clients in Local Court Hearings.