The committal stage is an important step in the criminal law process. It occurs after police have charged a person with an indictable offence going to the District or Supreme Court. The purpose of the committal process is to work out if there is enough evidence for a charge to go to the District or Supreme Court. Criminal offences like murder, manslaughter, robbery, drug trafficking etcetera go through the committal process.
In this article, we discuss how the committal process works. If you have questions about anything discussed, please contact the Criminal Lawyers Brisbane Team for a free chat.
WHAT KINDS OF COMMITTAL PROCEEDINGS ARE THERE?
At a committal hearing, the Magistrate does not decide if a person is guilty or not guilty of an offence. The Magistrate’s job is to decide if there is a prima facie case against someone for a criminal offence. This means the Magistrate decides if there is any evidence upon which a jury could convict an accused, not that they would.
COMMITTAL WITH CROSS-EXAMINATION
This kind of committal hearing involves a witness or witnesses attending Court to be cross-examined on defined issues or topics. The defined issues/topics will already have worked out before the hearing takes place. It is not a free for all whereby the defence can cross-examine a witness on anything and everything. The cross-examination is very limited to defined issues or topics.
At the end of the committal hearing, the defence may concede there is a case to answer against their client. They can also make a “no case submission” to the Magistrate. This means the defence says there is insufficient evidence to put the defendant on trial in the District or Supreme Court. If such a submission is made, the Magistrate must review all the evidence and decide if there is a case against the defendant to put them on trial.
If the Magistrate decides there is a case against the defendant, then they commit them for trial to the District or Supreme Court. If the Magistrate decides there is insufficient evidence against the defendant, then the charge is dismissed and that’s the end of the matter.
FULL HAND-UP COMMITTALS
Full hand-up committals are another committal proceeding in Queensland. They are rare unless the defence wants to make a “no case submission”. This is a hearing before a Magistrate. The prosecution gives the Court all of their evidence (e.g. they give the Magistrate the witness statements and the exhibits). After the prosecution has given the Court all of their evidence, the defence can concede there is a case against their client. They can also make a “no case submission” which was discussed above at committals with cross-examination.
A registry committal is the most common committal proceeding in Queensland. You must use a criminal defence lawyer for a registry committal to make sure you have all the evidence the prosecution relies on. If a criminal charge proceeds by registry committal, a Magistrate does not consider any evidence. The defence and the prosecution complete paperwork which is filed in the Court. A clerk of the Court processes the paperwork and commits the charge to the District or Supreme Court.
A defendant whose charge proceeds by registry committal can:
(a) enter no plea and be committed for trial;
(b) enter a plea of not guilty and be committed for trial; or
(c) enter a plea of guilty and to be committed for sentence.
LEGAL REPRESENTATION IS CRUCIAL
If your charges are proceeding via the committal process, it is critical you have an experienced criminal lawyer on your side. While guilt is not determined at this stage, it is a very important stage in the criminal process. The way a matter proceeds through the committal process can sometimes determine the way it will proceed at trial.
During the committal process the strengths and weaknesses of the prosecution’s case can be highlighted. It is through the committal process an accused can decide how they may want to proceed with their charge.
THE NEED FOR EXCELLENT LEGAL REPRESENTATION
If you are charged with a criminal offence going through the committal process, you need an experienced criminal lawyer on your side. Criminal Lawyers Brisbane Group are here to help and fight for you.
If you or someone you know is facing a committal proceeding, contact our Brisbane Criminal Lawyers now on (07) 3153 6215 for a free no-obligation chat.