Local courts deal with summary offences. Summary offences are offences which:
- are described as summary offences and have a maximum penalty of no more than two years;
- are table 1 or table 2 offences for which there has been no election to have the matters dealt with summarily;
- Information for a summary offence must be laid within six months of the offence being committed.
Generally in all summary proceedings if the defendant pleads not guilty the prosecution must serve on the defendant a full copy of the brief of evidence 14 days before the hearing or such other time as the magistrate determines.
Normally with a summary offence a charge can only be made or laid within 6 months from the time when the matter arose. An accused facing a table 1 offence must be served by the prosecution with a copy of the brief of evidence relating to the offence and a copy of their criminal record if any. It is important for an accused person to bear in mind when deciding whether to have a matter dealt with summarily that the maximum period of imprisonment for a single offence, which can be imposed by the Local Court is 2 years, or 5 years where consecutive sentences are involved, whereas in the District and Supreme Courts there is no such limitation.
Court Proceedings: Costs
Normally costs will not be awarded to a successful defendant unless the investigation was unreasonable or the proceedings were initiated without reasonable cause.
Dealt with summarily –
Indictable proceedings may be dealt with summarily if they are table 1 or table 2 offences. The election can only be made before the evidence commences or the facts are tendered. Where an election is made the maximum penalty is generally two years imprisonment. Table 1 offences are generally more serious than table 2 offences.
A committal is an administrative procedure in the local court to determine whether or not a person charged with an indictable offence should be committed for trial or sentence in the district court or supreme court. Generally committal proceedings are held in open court. At the close of the prosecution’s case in a committal the magistrate must determine whether or not there is a prime facie case. If the Magistrate decides that there is a reasonable prospect that a jury would convict, the defendant is committed to either the district or supreme courts. Costs are generally not awarded.
Onus of Proof
The burden of proof is on the crown to prove each element of the offence beyond reasonable doubt.
Defences are left to the jury which include the following:
- autrefois convict;
- fitness to plead;
- mental illness;
- substantial impairment by abnormality of mind.