By Leon Apostle -
Strictly Indictable, Indictable or Summary?
Before considering how you want to plead in the local court, you should speak with a lawyer. That’s because you might’ve been charged with a strictly indictable or indictable offence. The more serious offences are ussually transferred to the district court. If you enter a plea of guilty or not guilty before seeing the brief of evidence and being given legal advice you might be doing yourself a serious disservice.
Indictable and Summary Offences
Lets discuss the process of a criminal charge where the matter will be dealt with only in the local court. There are a few different avenues that a case can go down in the local court. This article generally only deals with criminal matters which stay in the local court and do not go up to the district court or a higher court. This article should not be relied upon as legal advice. It is crucial that you seek advice from an admitted solicitor before considering how to plead in court.
I Completely Agree With the Police Facts Sheet
If you completely agree with the police facts sheet it may be the case that you will enter a plea of guilty to the charge. The court will then sentence you based on the facts sheet given to the court.
There might be reasons however not to plead guilty even if you agree with the police facts sheet in its entirety. Like for example there is insufficient evidence to establish what the police say, or there might be a chance that you could have the charge dismissed under mental health legislation, or you want to negotiate with the prosecution to have another charge withdrawn (and don’t want to lose your bargaining power).
If you plead guilty, the magistrate will be given the police facts sheet, a copy of your criminal history (if any) and will hear what you have to say. The magistrate will then deal with the matter by for example by not recording a conviction, issuing a fine, imposing a good behaviour bond, or sentencing you to gaol.
I Agree that I Committed the Crime, Just Not the Way the Police Say
If for example you have been charged with an offence and you agree that you committed the crime but just not the way the police say you did, you might want to consider pleading guilty but disputing the facts. This would mean that a plea of guilty is entered but the matter is adjourned so that your lawyer can write a letter of representations to the police. A letter of representations will set out what you say the facts sheet should look like. If the police do not agree with your proposed facts sheet and changes the matter would get set down for a disputed facts hearing.
At a disputed facts hearing the police will need to prove that you committed the offence the way they say you did beyond a reasonable doubt. An example would be if the police facts sheet alleges punching, kicking and bottling. An accused person might only agree to punching. In this case it might be a matter which goes to a hearing but only for the court to make a decision on the facts. We wouldn’t recommend you do any of these things without legal advice and representation.
I Disagree, I Did Not Commit the Crime
If after reading the police facts sheet and being aware of the charge set out in any Court Attendance Notice you disagree with the allegations and say that you did not commit the offence alleged, you would enter a plea of ‘Not Guilty’.
The matter would be adjourned and ‘Brief Orders’ would be made. Brief Orders are orders in which the magistrate makes the police serve you with all evidence they rely upon on or before a certain date. Brief Orders also specify a ‘Reply Date’ which is a future court date (usually around 6 weeks after the first) where the accused person after having seen the evidence relied upon by the police is given the opportunity to advise the court whether the plea of ‘Not Guilty’ is maintained or the plea is to be changed.
If at the reply date an accused person maintains their plea of ‘Not Guilty’ the case will be adjourned again for a hearing. At the hearing the prosecution will show the court all the evidence it relies upon. The defence might object to some evidence on the basis that it doesn’t comply with the rules evidence. The lawyers will cross examine witnesses and make submissions. The prosecution has the responsibility of proving its case beyond a reasonable doubt.
After the court has considered all admissible evidence, the court will then come to a finding of guilty or not guilty.
If you have been charged with a criminal offence, call our principal solicitor 24/7 on 0450 953 884 now!
Disclaimer: This article is for research purposes only. Court proceedings are complex. You should not rely upon any information in this article and it should not be treated as a substitute for legal advice from a qualified legal practitioner.
We’re experienced Sydney family lawyers. Call us on 0450 953 884 to discuss your matter confidentially today. Email enquiries can be sent to Contact@solicitorsbarristers.com.au