No Case To Answer Submissions (WA)

In a criminal trial, either in the Magistrates Court or in the District Court, the defence can make a no case submission after the close of the prosecution case. This submission is made when the defence argues that the evidence presented by the prosecution does not support a finding of guilt and the court should dismiss the charge without the need for the defence to present a case. A no case submission will be successful if the prosecution case, taken at its highest, cannot support a finding of guilt against the accused. If the trial involves a jury, and there is no case to answer, the magistrate or judge must instruct the jury to return a verdict of not guilty. This page deals with no case to answer submissions in Western Australia.

The test for a no case to answer submission

The Magistrates Court and the District Court use the same test to determine a no case to answer submission. The test evaluates whether the prosecution’s case, at its strongest point, can sustain a verdict of guilt against the accused.

How do courts decide no case to answer submissions

To determine the validity of a no case to answer submission, a judge or magistrate evaluates whether, when viewed in the most favourable light possible, the prosecution’s evidence could support a guilty verdict against the accused.

The court must consider the evidence’s highest and most potent form, even if it is tenuous, weak, or ambiguous, unless it is inherently unbelievable, self-contradictory, or the result of a disordered mind.

The court does not have to decide whether the accused should be found guilty based on the prosecution’s evidence; rather, it must determine whether the court could legally find them guilty.

What must the court consider?

In evaluating a no case to answer submission, the court must take into account all of the prosecution’s evidence, as well as any statements made by prosecution witnesses during cross-examination. However, the court is not required to consider evidence that conflicts with the prosecution’s case or supports the defence’s case.

If the court has already heard expert evidence presented by the defence, as can occur when the court has ordered that all expert evidence be presented together, this evidence may be considered by the court in assessing a no case to answer submission.

When is a no case submission made?

After the prosecution presents its case in a contested hearing, the defence can make a no case to answer submission. In a jury trial, the defence makes this submission while the jury is not present in the courtroom. If the submission is successful, the judge will instruct the jury to find the accused not guilty. If the submission fails, the jury will hear the defence case.

Purpose of no case to answer submissions

A no case to answer submission, if it is successful, saves the court time. It means that a matter is finalised without the need to hear any more evidence or submissions.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Go To Court Lawyers.


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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