WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU GO TO TRIAL IN THE DISTRICT OR SUPREME COURT?
If you have decided to plead not guilty to some or all of the offences on the indictment, then your matter will go to trial. Trials in the District and Supreme Courts are conducted before a Judge and jury (there are situations where there can be a Judge only trial, but these are rare).
Judges handle all of the issues of law during the course of the trial (e.g. admissibility of evidence, instructing the jury about legal issues). Juries on the other hand determine all of the factual issues. The jury will be present during the trial for the period when the evidence is produced to the Court. At the conclusion of all of the evidence, the jury have the task of determining if an accused is guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the offence/s on the indictment.
(1) Your trial commences
At the commencement of the trial and during your trial you will sit in the dock, which will be at the back of the court room.
The Crown Prosecutor from the DPP will appear on behalf of the Crown. A defence barrister will generally appear for an accused person.
(2) You are arraigned on the counts on the indictment
You will need to stand and the Judge’s Associate will read out one by one each count on the indictment. The Associate will ask you how you want to plead (guilty or not guilty) to each count (offence) on the indictment. You will then need to say “guilty” or “not guilty”. This process will usually be performed in front of the jury pool of persons, 12 of whom will be members of the jury for your trial.
(3) The jury is empanelled (selected)
Once you have been arraigned, then 12 persons from the jury pool will be selected (empanelled) as the jury of your trial. The empanelling of the jury involves a process whereby names of persons are randomly pulled out of a barrel. The defence and Prosecution are permitted to make a limited number of challenges to people who are called from the jury pool to serve as a juror.
(4) The Judge gives a talk to the jury
After the jury has been selected the Judge will generally talk to the jury about a number of things, including:
- the offences on the indictment.
- their role during the trial.
- the prohibition against making their own inquiries about the defendant.
(5) The Prosecution provides an opening address to the jury
After this the Crown Prosecutor will provide to the jury what is known as an “opening address”. This is a general overview of what the case is about and the evidence the Crown expects each of their witnesses will give.
(6) The Prosecution presents their case
After the Crown Prosecutor has given their opening address to the jury they will then call each of their witnesses one-by-one to give evidence. When a witness is called to give evidence they will sit in the witness box. The bailiff of the Court will generally first ask the witness if they wish to take an oath on the bible (essentially swearing on the bible that the evidence they shall give will be true) or an affirmation (affirming to tell the truth to the court). The Crown Prosecutor will then ask their witness questions (this is known as examination-in-chief). The questions asked by the Crown Prosecutor generally cannot be leading questions (i.e. questions that in themselves suggest the answer to the question e.g. the car that went through the red light was blue wasn’t it?).
Once the Crown Prosecutor has asked their witness questions, the defence barrister (or the defendant if self-represented) has an opportunity to ask the witness questions (cross-examine them). The questions asked by the defence barrister may be leading questions (i.e. questions that suggests the answer to the questions) and can include propositions put to the witness. It is important to keep in mind that the witness cannot be asked anything, the questions must be relevant to the issues that are to be determined at the trial.
(7) The Prosecution and Defence make closing addresses to the jury
If the defence did not call any witnesses, then the Crown Prosecutor will give a “closing address” to the jury. This is essentially the Crown Prosecutor telling the jury in reference to the evidence the jury has seen and heard, why he/she believes the jury should find the accused guilty beyond reasonable doubt.
The defence counsel will then give his/her closing address to the jury to argue why the accused should not be found guilty based on the evidence the jury has seen or heard.
(8) The Judge sums up the case to the jury and gives the jury directions
At the conclusion of the closing addresses by the Crown Prosecutor and defence counsel, the Judge will sum up the evidence to the jury and provide them directions about any legal issues that need to be covered (e.g. if self-defence is raised on the evidence or provocation).
(9) The jury retires to consider their decision
After the Judge has summed up to the jury, the jury retires to deliberate (they go out of the courtroom to decide if they will return a guilty or not guilty verdict).
If the jury return a guilty verdict, then you will be sentenced.
If the jury return a not guilty verdict then you will be discharged and free to leave.
If the jury are hung (i.e. they cannot decide if you are guilty or not guilty) then the jury are discharged without having to make that decision. This means that you will most likely have to stand trial another day before a different jury (unless the DPP for some reason decide to discontinue the Prosecution- which in most cases is highly unlikely).
Can you appeal the penalty imposed by the Judge or the Decision of the jury (conviction)?
Please obtain legal advice before you lodge an appeal.
Yes, you can appeal the penalty imposed by the Judge or the decision of the jury to convict you.
PLEASE NOTE an appeal must be filed within one (1) month from the date of the Order of the Court.
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