When someone is charged with a serious offence, police must prepare a
brief of evidence
. It will contain all relevant witness statements and information about any forensic or other evidence.
A copy of the brief of evidence must be given to the prosecutor and to the accused or their legal representative before the court hearing.
The prosecutor may ask police to collect more evidence or conduct further investigations before the court hearing. The prosecutor may also decide to change or withdraw some or all of the charges.
The first time an accused person goes to court it is called a
. Mentions are a way for the court to make sure a case is being worked on and is progressing. Local Court mentions are usually very brief.
As a victim or witness you do not have to attend court on these mention dates. If you want to be kept informed of what is happening at court you can contact the police Officer in Charge (OIC) or the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) solicitor.
There may be a number of mention dates in the Local Court. The accused person may be required to attend. If they are in custody, they may appear from gaol by video-link.
The accused person does not have to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty during Local Court mentions.
At a summary hearing, a magistrate determines the case by either convicting the accused person, or dismissing the matter or by making some other order as to the accused person.
Before a summary hearing the police OIC or the lawyer from the ODPP should contact you by letter or phone about the case.
More on summary hearings
At a committal hearing, the Magistrate decides if the matter is to be committed for trial in the District or Supreme Courts. This normally occurs in the case of serious offences such as sexual assault, murder and manslaughter.
Before a committal hearing the lawyer from the ODPP should contact you by letter or phone about the case.
If you need to give evidence at the committal or summary hearing, the ODPP or the police officer will contact you. You will also be sent a subpoena that will give you the details about the date, time and place of the hearing.
More on committals
If the case is going to trial at the District or Supreme Courts, an ODPP lawyer should make contact with you before you have to go to court.
Depending on the case you may have several contacts with the ODPP before the trial and there is usually a pre-trial conference.
The pre-trial conference is a chance for you and the Crown Prosecutor to meet face-to-face to discuss the case, raise questions and talk about any concerns. You will be given an overview of what will happen at court and told who does what at court.
You or your support person can make contact with the ODPP to ask whether such a meeting is planned. It is usual to have a pre-trial conference shortly before the trial starts.
Sometimes the ODPP will decide the case you are involved in should not go to court. This is known as a
no bill' or 'no further proceedings'
. This can occur at any time.
There can be lots of reasons why a case is no-billed. It usually means the ODPP has made a decision that the evidence against the accused is not enough for the accused to be found guilty
beyond a reasonable doubt
in a hearing or trial. The ODPP has guidelines that prosecutors must follow when determining that a case does not proceed.
These guidelines are published on the ODPP website.
It might be that as the victim of crime you tell the ODPP lawyer that you do not want to continue on with the case. Sometimes the case may continue anyway, the ODPP will decide whether or not to continue with the prosecution if they have enough evidence that a crime has been committed.
The ODPP lawyer should inform you of the decision before a decision is made to no bill a matter and ask you for your views about the matter proceeding and inform you.
Find out more about your rights as a victim of crime and the Charter of Victims Rights