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Summary Offences And Indictable Offences In Canberra

Summary offences are minor criminal matters that are finalised in the lower courts. They include traffic offences, trespass offences and public disorder offences. Indictable offences are more serious offences which may be finalised on indictment in the higher courts. This article outlines the procedures for dealing with summary offences and indictable offences in Canberra and the rest of the ACT.

What are summary offences and indictable offences in Canberra?

Section 190 of the Legislation Act 2001 states that in the ACT, a summary offence is an offence that is punishable by no more than a maximum of two years imprisonment. An indictable offence is an offence that carries a longer maximum penalty than two years imprisonment.

Summary offences are finalised by magistrates in the Magistrates Court where the accused is an adult or in the Children’s Court, where the accused is a juvenile. Many indictable offences can be finalised by a magistrate where the prosecution elects to do so, but are otherwise dealt with on indictment in the Supreme Court or District Court. Very serious indictable offences can only be finalised in the higher courts on indictment.

The procedures for dealing with summary offences in Canberra and the ACT are set out in Part 17 of the Crimes Act 1900., which also contains a number of summary offences including  possession of offensive weapons, offensive and indecent behaviour in public, fighting and indecent exposure.

The procedure for summary offences in Canberra

When a person is charged with a summary offence in Canberra, they may be arrested or summonsed. If they are arrested, they will generally be bailed until the date of the first mention for the matter which will be in the Magistrates Court or Children’s Court.

When the person attends court for the first time, they can choose to finalise the matter on the spot by pleading guilty and being sentenced, or to adjourn the matter until a future date to obtain legal advice and supporting documentation.

If a person decides to plead not guilty to a summary offence, the matter will proceed to a contested hearing. At the contested hearing, the court will hear evidence and submissions from both parties and then decide whether the accused has been proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

If the accused is found guilty, they will be sentenced. The maximum penalty a magistrate can impose for a single offence is imprisonment for two years. The court can also impose other penalties including fines and good behaviour bonds. 

The procedure for indictable offences in Canberra

When a person is charged with an indictable offence in Canberra, they will initially be required to attend the Magistrates Court or Children’s Court. If the prosecutor elects to deal with the matter summarily, it will be finalised by a magistrate.

If the prosecution chooses to deal with the matter on indictment, or if the matter is a strictly indictable matter such as murder or manslaughter that can only be finalised in a higher court, it will be set down for a committal proceeding. During the committal proceeding, the court will assess whether the evidence against the accused is sufficient to support a finding of guilt. If the evidence is sufficient, the matter will be committed to a higher court. If it is not, the matter will be dismissed.  

Prior to the committal proceeding, the defence must be provided with a copy of all the evidence that the prosecution intends to rely on against the accused. If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Go To Court Lawyers.

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Fernanda Dahlstrom

Fernanda Dahlstrom has a Bachelor of Laws from Latrobe University, a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice from the College of Law, a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Melbourne and a Master of Arts (Writing and Literature) from Deakin University. Fernanda practised law for eight years, working in criminal defence, child protection and domestic violence law in the Northern Territory. She also practised in family law after moving to Brisbane in 2016.
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