Committal Hearing Proccedings
In Victoria, committal proceedings, which are also known as an initial proceeding or preliminary examinations, are outlined in Chapter 4 of the Committal Proceeding Criminal Procedure ACT 2009. A committal hearing, is held in the Local Court, and is used to determine if there is sufficient evidence to send a defendant to trial.
Objective of a Committal Hearing
The primary purpose of a committal hearing is to reduce the length of the court process in order to save on court costs and valuable time. The important cases are filtered through, whereas the weaker cases are filtered out. Committal hearings allow for guilty pleas to be made early, as well as structuring a foundation for a case to proceed on.
Committal Hearing Proceedings
Prior to a committal hearing, it is the duty of the police to investigate the case, and record witness statements from the version of events of each witness. During a committal hearing, the prosecution will present their case against the defendant and call upon witnesses to give their testimony. The defence may cross-examine the witnesses prior to the defence re-examining them.
The magistrate will then decide if there is enough evidence to support the case and put the defendant on trial. If there is insufficient evidence, the Magistrate will dismiss the case, meaning the defendant is free to leave. If there is sufficient evidence, the defendant may plead guilty, which will prompt the Magistrate either to charge the defendant immediately, or to commit them to a later sentencing date. If the defendant pleads not guilty, the defendant will be committed to trial in the District or Supreme Court.