Indictable Offences In Brisbane
Indictable offences in Brisbane and elsewhere in Queensland are serious criminal offences that can be dealt with on indictment (in the Supreme Court or District Court). While some indictable offences can be dealt with summarily (in the Magistrates Court or Children’s Court) with the consent of both parties, others are strictly indictable, meaning they can only be finalised in a higher court. This article outlines the processes for dealing with indictable offences in Brisbane and the rest of Queensland.
Legislation on indictable offences in Brisbane
There are a number of pieces of legislation that contain indictable offences that a person can be charged with in Brisbane, with the main ones being the Criminal Code 1899 and the Drugs Misuse Act 1986.
Indictable or strictly indictable?
Many common criminal offences are indictable offences. These include theft, assault, burglary and intentionally or recklessly causing injury. These offences can be dealt with by a magistrate where both the defence and prosecution are agreeable to this. The advantages of having a matter dealt with by a magistrate is that the maximum penalty that can be imposed is significantly lower than if the matter were being sentenced in a higher court. In Queensland, the maximum penalty a magistrate can impose for a single charge is three years imprisonment.
However, offences like burglary or theft can also be dealt with on indictment. There are a number of reasons this may occur. It may be because the offending is particularly serious and the prosecution will not consent to the matter being heard in the lower courts. It may be because one or both parties wishes to advance complex legal arguments. Or it may be because the matter is more suited to being tried before a jury. Any person who is charged with an indictable offence has the right to have the matter heard before a jury so they may refuse to consent to the matter being dealt with by a magistrate for any reason. The matter will then be committed to a higher court for finalisation if it is going to proceed. However, this is a longer, more formal and often, more expensive process than dealing with a matter in the summary jurisdiction.
Offences that are strictly indictable are very serious offences that can only be finalised in the higher courts. Examples of strictly indictable offences in Brisbane and the rest of Queensland are murder, manslaughter, rape and robbery. Strictly indictable offences carry very severe maximum penalties including life imprisonment.
Committal procedures for indictable offences in Brisbane
An offence that is to be dealt with on indictment in Brisbane or the rest of Queensland, must go through committal proceedings before being transferred to a higher court. A committal hearing is held in either the Magistrates Court or the Children’s Court. It involves a magistrate assessing the case against the accused. If there is enough evidence to support a finding of guilt in a higher court, the matter will be committed to a higher court. If there is insufficient evidence, the charge will be dismissed.
At the committal hearing, the prosecution will adduce evidence and the defence may cross-examine witnesses. Both parties may make submissions about the strength of the case against the accused. In a case where there is clearly a strong case against the accused, the defence may consent to the matter being committed and no evidence will need to be adduced and no submissions made. This is most likely to occur in a matter where the accused intends to plead guilty.
Indictable offences in Brisbane and jury trials
If a matter is committed to a higher court and the accused enters a plea of not guilty, the matter will proceed to a trial, which will be determined by a jury. The jury will be comprised of twelve members of the public, who will hear the evidence against the accused and the submissions of both parties. It will then make a decision as to whether the accused has been proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Juries in Brisbane and the rest of Queensland are governed by the Jury Act 1995.
Juries do not determine questions of law or what sentencing the accused receives if they are found guilty. They only decide matters of fact. Jurors are paid for the time they spend carrying out jury service.
If you require legal advice or representation in relation to indictable offences in Brisbane or in any other legal matter, please contact Go To Court Lawyers.