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Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Criminal Procedure Act — new hearings

Following on from Dr Manhattan's post on subpoena of documents, I thought I should mention briefly one of the changes the Criminal Procedure Act 2009 will introduce: the summary case conference.

Chapter 3 deals with Summary Procedure. Section 3 of the Act says that a summary hearing means a hearing conducted in accordance with Part 3.3. (A summary hearing is a summary contested hearing.)

Before a summary hearing happens, the Act provides for three types of preliminary hearing:
  1. mention
  2. summary case conference
  3. contest-mention
The summary case conference is similar to a contest-mention: it tries to identify disputed issues, but is probably closer to the special mention in the Magistrates' Court Act 1989 Schedule 5, clause 3. (Pedantically, that provision only applies to committal hearings. It allows the Court to control its proceedings, and make sure the parties are on track, completing tasks and undertakings, and keeping to the timetable. The summary case conference will give summary courts a similar explicit statutory power for summary criminal proceedings.)

The summary case conference is required if a summary prosecution is commenced by a new process: the notice to appear. The way that works is:
  1. Notice to appear issued. This is similar in effect to a summons, but doesn't have a charge.
  2. Charge sheet must be filed within 14 days (or the notice to appear lapses)
  3. a preliminary brief must be served within 7 days after the day the charge-sheet is filed
  4. a summary case conference must be held before:
    • the charge is adjourned for a contest-mention
    • the charge is adjourned for a summary-hearing
    • an accused can ask for a full brief
The other process is to issue a charge (similar to the current procedure in the Magistrates' Court Act 1989):
  • file or sign a charge-sheet
  • accused may request a full brief, which must be served at least 14 days before contest-mention or, if there's no contest-mention, the summary hearing
  • mention hearing
  • if appropriate, contest-mention
  • Part 3.3 summary hearing
It seems the legislation intends full briefs to be provided later in a criminal proceeding — typically, after commencement but before contest-mention.

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