HOW DO CRIMINAL CHARGES PROCEED THROUGH THE MAGISTRATES COURT IN QUEENSLAND?
If your matter is going to ultimately be dealt with in the Magistrates Court, then it is a Magistrate who will hear your matter, whether or not you go to trial (summary hearing) or ultimately plead guilty. This is unlike the District and Supreme Court, where a Judge alone or a Judge and jury will hear your matter.
What are “mentions”?
A mention of a matter in the Magistrates Court refers to when a Magistrate reviews a matter. At the mention, both the prosecutor and defence lawyer will appear in Court. The Prosecution and defence will inform the Magistrate what is happening with the matter, where it is at, and if the defence require the Prosecution to disclose any material (e.g. witness statements, recordings or CCTV footage). A matter can have a number of mentions before it is ultimately resolved by way of a sentence or trial.
Do I need to appear at mentions?
Generally you must appear at the first mention of your matter even if you are legally represented. Please see below if you would need to appear at the first mention of your matter.
If you are legally represented then generally your lawyer can request the Magistrate to excuse your appearance at each mention subsequent to the first one, provided you maintain regular contact with them.
If you are not legally represented then you must appear at each mention of your matter otherwise the Magistrate will issue a warrant for your arrest.
THE FIRST MENTION
Do I need to appear at Court?
This depends on:
(1) How you have been charged (e.g. Notice-to-Appear or charged at the watch-house); and
(2) If you are legally represented.
If you have been issued a Notice-to-Appear
You must appear, even if you are legally represented.
If you have been charged at the watch-house and you have been placed on bail
If you don’t have a lawyer representing you, then you must appear.
If you have a lawyer representing you and appearing at the mention for you, then your lawyer can generally appear for you and request your appearance be excused. Please discuss this with your lawyer before the first Court date.
If you were arrested by police and processed through the watch-house and granted bail, then bail is unlikely to be an issue raised at the first mention of your matter.
If you have been issued a Notice-to-Appear, then the issue of bail will be raised at the first mention of your matter (i.e. whether or not the police object to you being granted bail either on your own undertaking (i.e. without any conditions) or with conditions).
If police make an application for you to be refused bail (remanded in custody), then you will have to make submissions to the Magistrate (orally tell them) why you should not be refused bail (bail is discussed in another section of this book, but you would specifically want to refer to Section 16 of the Bail Act 1980 (Qld) when considering what to tell the Magistrate).
If police have remanded you in custody before your first mention, the Magistrate may ask you if you want to make an application for bail. PLEASE NOTE, if you make an application for bail in the Magistrates Court and you are refused bail, then you cannot make another application for bail in the Magistrates Court, unless you can show a change in your circumstances.
If you are granted bail, you must sign the bail undertaking before you leave the court-house otherwise a warrant may be issued for your attest. CLICK HERE to see an example of a bail undertaking.
WHAT ARE MY OPTIONS AT THE FIRST MENTION?
We strongly recommend you seek legal advice before your first mention, so that you are fully aware of your options.
Generally you have 5 options: –
Option 1: Plead guilty and be sentenced.
Option 2: Adjourn to be sentenced on another date.
Option 3: Adjourn to make a submission to the Prosecution.
Option 4: Adjourn to be provided material by the Prosecution.
Option 5: List your matter for summary trial (hearing).
Option 1: Plead guilty and be sentenced
Accept the facts and charge/s as alleged against you in the QP9 Court Brief and enter a plea of guilty and be sentenced.
Option 2: Adjourn to be sentenced on another date
Accept the facts and charge/s alleged against you as stated in the QP9 Court Brief. Tell the Magistrate that it is your intention to plead guilty to the offence/s and you are seeking an adjournment to another date so that you can obtain some material for your sentence (e.g. character references, doctor’s report or psychologist/psychiatrist report).
Option 3: Adjourn to make a submission to the Prosecution
Request an adjournment to another date for the purpose of making a written submission to the Police Prosecutions in relation to the offence. If you do send a written submission to the Prosecution, please make sure you mark it “Without prejudice”.
Submissions to the Prosecution may include:
- asking the Prosecution to discontinue the offence/s.
- asking the Prosecution to amend some or all of the offence/s, on the basis that you plead guilty to the new amended offence/s.
- asking the Prosecution to amend the facts in relation to the offence/s, on the basis that you plead guilty to the offence/s, based on the amended new amended facts.
Option 4: Adjourn to be provided material by the Prosecution
Your matter could be adjourned to another date for a further mention to allow time for the Prosecution to provide you with copies of witness statements and/or exhibits (e.g. CCTV footage, your interview with police, copy of text messages from a mobile phone seized by police or CCTV footage etc.) which you have asked them to provide to you.
In some circumstances you may want to see some of the evidence (e.g. signed witness statements, a copy of CCTV footage or your interview) before making a decision about what you want to do. The Magistrates Court Practice Direction 9 of 2010 provides that a matter may be adjourned for 21 days, to allow the Prosecution to obtain and provide requested witness statements and/or exhibits to the defence.
Option 5: List your matter for summary trial (hearing).
PLEASE get legal advice before choosing this option.
Ask the Court to list your matter for trial (summary hearing). A word of warning; generally persons who proceed to trial and are found guilty will receive a greater penalty and serve longer times in prison than persons who enter pleas of guilty. The reason the Courts do this, is because they give credit to persons who enter pleas of guilty for co-operating with the administration of justice. Section 13 of the Penalties and Sentences Act (Qld) specifically provides that a Court must take into account the guilty plea and may reduce the sentence that would have been imposed had a plea not been entered.
Your matter should be listed for summary trial at least 49 days away from when it is listed. The full brief of evidence must be made available by the Prosecution for you to collect from them within 35 days of your matter being listed for trial, and no less than 14 days from your trial date.
THE SECOND MENTION
If your matter was adjourned to allow the Prosecution to obtain and disclose witness statements and/or exhibits to you, then at the second mention the Court will expect one of the following:
(1) If you are pleading guilty to the offence/s, the Court is likely to want to sentence you then and there. However, you may be able to ask for your sentence hearing to be heard on another date so that you can obtain material for your sentence (e.g. character references, doctor’s report or psychologist/psychiatrist report).
(2) If you are not pleading guilty, then your matter should be adjourned for at least 49 days for a summary trial. The full brief of evidence must be made available by the Prosecution for you to collect from them within 35 days of your matter being listed for trial, and no less than 14 days from your trial date.
What is a full brief-of-evidence?
A full brief is defined in the Magistrates Court Practice Direction No. 10 of 2010 as:
“ means a brief which contains copies of signed statements of witnesses and exhibits upon which the Prosecution proposes to rely on in the proceeding and all things in the possession of the Prosecution, other than things the disclosure of which would be unlawful or contrary to public interest, that would tend to help the case for the defendant”.
The full brief-of-evidence should contain all of the evidence the Prosecution intends to rely upon in proving their case against you (i.e. all of the evidence they need to prove each offence).
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