Committal proceedings are court hearings held in the Magistrates’ Court to decide whether there is sufficient evidence against an accused person charged with a serious criminal offence to order them to face trial in a higher court.
This is the first hearing in the committal process and usually occurs within a short time of a charge being laid. At this hearing, the court will set a timetable for the exchange of information between the prosecution and defence. A committal mention date will be set at this hearing.
This is a preliminary hearing before the full committal hearing. Before a committal mention, the defence will receive a hand-up brief that will include copies of witness statements and exhibits.
At a committal mention the magistrate may:
- order that the accused be committed to trial at the County Court or Supreme Court
- determine whether any/all of the charges can be heard and finalised in the Magistrates’ Court
- determine whether the accused person will be granted permission to cross-examine witnesses that they have requested to attend a committal hearing and fix a date for that committal hearing
- hear and determine any issues between the defence lawyers and the prosecution in relation to providing evidence sought in advance of the committal hearing
- make any other order or direction that the court considers appropriate.
At a committal hearing, a magistrate will decide whether there is enough evidence to support a conviction for the offence/s charged.
The prosecution will call witnesses, where leave has been granted at the committal mention, for cross-examination by the defence. Other evidence will be tendered to the court in written form. See the witnesses page if you are summonsed to a committal hearing to give evidence.
The defence may also call witnesses to give evidence and at the end of all the evidence, the defence may make a submission to the court in relation to the strength of the evidence.
If the magistrate decides there is evidence of sufficient weight upon which a jury could convict, the accused will be committed for the hearing of the charges in the County Court or Supreme Court.
If the magistrate decides there is not sufficient evidence, the accused may be discharged.