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Going to court

Once a crime is reported to the police it is up to them, not the victim, whether to proceed or not. A person arrested and charged by the police will be prosecuted by the police or the State Crown Prosecutor (depending on the seriousness of the offence). They will decide how the case is conducted and the victim will have no real say in the matter and often will have little contact unless the person charged pleads not guilty.

The case will first come before the Court for a short hearing (called a first return day or mention). If the person (the defendant) was arrested, this will usually be within a few weeks after the charge is laid, or the very next day if the defendant was not granted bail. Defendants who are not arrested will receive a summons about four weeks after the incident and will have to appear in court about four weeks after receiving the summons.

The first hearing is only to allow the Court to find out what each side intends doing about the charge and is not a full hearing of the case. The defendant is asked to plead guilty or not guilty. If pleading guilty the Court will listen to the police facts, hear what the defendant or that person's lawyer has to say about those facts or the appropriate punishment and then impose a punishment. The prosecutor will give to the Court a victim impact statement which tells the Court the effects of the offence on the victim. If the defendant pleads not guilty, the Court will set a new hearing date (the trial date) which will be months away and in the majority of cases, release the defendant on bail until then, see: ARREST, YOUR RIGHTS AND BAIL, Bail. The defendant may also ask the Court to adjourn the hearing to enable legal advice to be obtained. The defendant can usually seek up to three adjournments.

The victim will usually be the main and sometimes the only witness to the violence and her or his evidence will be vital to the prosecution case; and without it the case will usually be dismissed. To prove a charge the police will have to prove the case beyond any reasonable doubt.

A defendant who is found guilty of a charge or who pleads guilty, may be imprisoned, fined, or put on a good behaviour bond.

Going to court  :  Last Revised: Tue Mar 25th 2014
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