Defended Hearings19 December 2023 in Criminal Law
Defended hearings allow accused persons to present their case and have a fair trial, as well as ensure that the prosecution is required to prove the charges beyond reasonable doubt. They are essential in upholding the principle of presumption of innocence, which is a fundamental tenet of the justice system.
What are defended hearings?
In NSW, if an adult is accused of committing a summary offence, the case is finalised in the Local Court. If the accused enters a guilty plea, a magistrate imposes a sentence. But if the accused pleads not guilty, the matter is postponed for a defended hearing, which is essentially a trial before a magistrate. At the hearing, both the prosecution and the defence present their evidence and arguments, and the magistrate decides whether the offence has been proven beyond reasonable doubt.
When an individual is charged with indictable offences, a different process applies. These offences are handled in either the Supreme Court or District Court of NSW.
The Criminal Procedure Act 1986 and the Evidence Act 1995 lay out the regulations regarding defended hearings.
The process of defended hearings
Defended hearings typically follow the laying of charges by the police, and the accused is served with a court attendance notice, which outlines the charges and the court date. The accused can either plead guilty or not guilty at this stage. If the accused pleads not guilty, the court sets a date for the defended hearing, and the prosecution and the defence prepare their evidence.
At the hearing, the prosecution presents their case first by calling witnesses and presenting evidence. The defence can cross-examine the witnesses and challenge the evidence presented. The accused also has the right to call their own witnesses and present their evidence to support their case. Once both the prosecution and defence have presented their case, the judge or magistrate evaluates the evidence and makes a decision on whether the accused is guilty or not guilty.
Potential Outcomes of Defended Hearings
If the accused is found guilty, the court proceeds to sentencing, where the accused is punished for the offence. If the accused is found not guilty, they are acquitted, and the charges are dismissed. In some cases, the accused may choose to plead guilty to the charges, and the matter proceeds to sentencing. In such cases, the court considers the guilty plea as a mitigating factor and may impose a less severe sentence than if the accused had been found guilty after a defended hearing.
How can BSM help?
Defended hearings can be complex and require the kind of legal expertise the criminal lawyers at Brander Smith McKnight have to offer. Our lawyers can advise you on your options, including whether to plead guilty to the charges and potentially receive a reduced sentence. We will ensure your rights are protected and your defence is presented effectively.
Call us to arrange a free 20 minute no obligation consultation that includes case evaluation and cost estimate.