Brief of Evidence (WA)
When a person is charged with criminal offences in Western Australia, they have to decide whether to plead guilty and accept a sentence or to plead not guilty and proceed to trial or contested hearing. Prior to making this decision, the accused may want to obtain the brief of evidence, which is a document the prosecution compiles that includes all the evidence that will be used if the matter is contested. It is crucial for the defence to meticulously examine the brief of evidence in order to gauge the strength of the case against them. This page deals with briefs of evidence in WA.
What is in a brief of evidence?
After an accused has pleaded not guilty to criminal charges, the prosecution must provide them with detailed particulars of the alleged offence/s. In addition, the prosecution must disclose all evidence that it intends to rely on and all things within its possession.
This information is usually provided to the defence in the form of a brief of evidence, which may include a charge sheet, a summary of the alleged facts, witness statements from alleged victims, civilians, and police who dealt with the accused. The brief of evidence may also contain records of police interviews, DNA evidence, CCTV footage, child forensic interviews, expert evidence from doctors or psychologists, records of telephone intercepts, and forensics reports, such as forensic analysis of substances suspected to be prohibited drugs.
When is a brief of evidence provided?
The accused person may receive a brief of evidence from the police when they are charged or at a later time after the police have prepared the brief. It is mandatory for the prosecution to serve the brief of evidence to the defence with enough time to allow the accused to decide whether to contest the charges and prepare their defence.
If the brief of evidence indicates a strong prosecution case, the accused may opt to plead guilty. By pleading guilty, the accused accepts responsibility for their actions, and the court acknowledges this by giving them a sentencing discount. This discount is in recognition the accused’s cooperation, which has saved the court time and resources that would have been spent running a contested hearing.
As a result, a person who pleads guilty to an offence will receive a lesser penalty than they would have if they were found guilty after a contested hearing.
During the committal stage, the prosecution must adduce sufficient evidence before a magistrate to demonstrate that its case could support a finding of guilt in a higher court. If the evidence presented at the committal hearing is insufficient to support a finding of guilt, the matter will be dismissed. If it is sufficient, the matter will be committed to the District Court or Supreme Court.
Whether an accused person is facing serious indictable charges or summary offences, it is essential for the defence to conduct a thorough examination of all the evidence. The defence should assess the nature and severity of the alleged offences and the strength and relevance of the prosecution’s evidence and any legal defences that are available before the accused enters a plea.
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