On 30 April 2018, changes were implemented to the Criminal Procedure Act 1986 (NSW) which resulted in contested Committal Hearings being removed from the NSW Justice System.
Prior to the new changes, a person charged with a serious criminal offence was entitles to a Committal Hearing. Such a hearing would ordinarily allow the prosecution evidence to be ‘tested’ before a Local Court Magistrate in order to decide whether there was enough evidence for the matter to proceed to trial in the District or Supreme Court.
As at 30 April, a new system was implemented in an attempt to streamline the Committal process. This new process is now called ‘Charge Certification’ and ‘Case Conferencing.’ It involves a process where a Senior Prosecutor reviews the evidence and confirms or certifies that the charges will proceed. Should a matter be determined to proceed, then there will be case conferencing between the defence and prosecutors.
It is planned that the early case conferencing will maximise opportunities for meaningful discussions between prosecution and defence. In turn, this will maximise opportunities for early guilty pleas and the narrowing of issues at potential trials.
Please see below for the new process:
- Brief orders
At the first step in the process, orders are to be made for the Police to serve the brief on the accused person. An 8 week adjournment for service of the brief is to take place.
- Brief Service (confirmation)
At the second step, the prosecution is to confirm that the brief has been served. A 6 week adjournment will be granted for the prosecution to review the brief and file a ‘charge certificate’. This will confirm the charges which the prosecution will proceed with.
- Charge certification and criminal case conferencing
At the third step, a charge certificate is to be filed by the prosecution. Unless a plea of guilty is entered at this stage, the proceedings will be adjourned for a total of 8 weeks, with an expectation that a criminal case conference will occur within the first 6 weeks. In addition, the case conference certificate is to be finalised, and any further charges are to be filed within the remaining 2 weeks.
- Case conference certificate, amended charge certificate, and committal
At the fourth step, a case conference certificate along with any amended charge certificate is to be filed, and the person charged must enter a plea to the offence/s. Unless the Magistrate accepts a plea of guilty, the person who has been charged will then be committed for trial. Where the Magistrate accepts a plea of guilty, the accused will be committed for sentence. Of note, there remains an opportunity, where appropriate, to cross examine prosecution witnesses prior to an individual being committed for trial.
If charged with a serious criminal offence, one should seek immediate legal representation. Our criminal lawyers at McKenzie McLoughlin Law have offices conveniently located in Manly and travel throughout Sydney for al work. As former prosecutors, Josh and James know how the DPP & Police go about their business. Let their knowledge and experience work to your advantage.