Indictable Offences (Qld)
Updated on Nov 15, 2022 • 4 min read • 498 views • Copy Link
Indictable Offences (Qld)
Indictable offences are criminal offences where the accused has the right to be tried before a jury in a higher court. They are more serious than summary offences, which are finalised in the lower courts (Magistrates Court and Children’s Court). However, many indictable offences can also be heard summarily with the consent of the defence and prosecution. When this occurs, the matter is dealt with by a magistrate and lower maximum penalties apply. This page deals with indictable offences in Queensland.
What are indictable offences?
Indictable offences in Queensland include stealing and assault as well as more serious crimes like murder, manslaughter, rape and robbery. The majority of indictable offences in Queensland are contained in the Criminal Code Act 1899. The Drugs Misuse Act 1986 also contains indictable offences. Commonwealth indictable offences are set out in the Crimes Act 1914.
A limitation period is a time limit for laying a criminal charge.
Summary offences have a limitation period. Once this period has passed, a prosecution cannot be started.
There is no limitation period for laying a charge in respect of an indictable offence. These prosecutions can be commenced years, or even decades, after the alleged offence.
Historical offences are sometimes prosecuted when new evidence comes to light long after an offence, or where there is a long delay in reporting an offence. It may be more difficult to prove an offence occurred when there has been a long delay in prosecuting it as the memories of witnesses may have deteriorated and other forms of evidence may no longer be available.
Indictable offences heard summarily
When both parties agree that a matter will be finalised in a lower court, the matter can proceed directly to a plea hearing or a contested hearing in front of a magistrate.
If the matter is contested, the magistrate will hear evidence from both sides and decide whether the accused has been found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
If the accused is found guilty, the maximum penalty that can be imposed for a single offence is three years imprisonment.
Indictable offences that are heard summarily are generally finalised in a much shorter time than those than are committed to a higher court to be dealt with on indictment.
Indictable offences that must be heard summarily
Under section 552A of the Criminal Code, certain offence must be heard summarily if the prosecution elects for this.
These offences include:
Procedure for offences heard on indictment
When a matter is heard ‘on indictment’ this means it is committed to a higher court for finalisation. This may be because it is an offence that cannot be dealt with summarily, or because the parties do not agree to the summary jurisdiction. In Queensland, matters that are dealt with on indictment are heard by the District Court or Supreme Court.
The matter will initially be mentioned in the Magistrates Court. It will then proceed to a committal hearing, where the strength of the prosecution case will be assessed. If there is sufficient evidence that a jury could convict the accused, the matter will be committed to a higher court. If the magistrate does not consider that the accused could be found guilty, the matter will be dismissed.
The matter will then proceed to either a trial before a jury or a plea hearing in front of a judge.
Matters that are committed to a higher court for trial are generally decided by a jury of twelve people chosen at random from the electoral roll. The jury decides whether the accused has been proven guilty of the offence/s charged. If the jury returns a guilty verdict, the judge will then decide on the appropriate sentence.
An accused person (or the prosecution) can apply for a matter to be heard by a judge alone under section 614 of the Criminal Code.
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