Committal Hearings: Can They Still Play a Role in Preventing a Trial?

Traditionally if you were charged with an offence which the law considered serious enough to be heard before a jury, before that could occur the police were required to demonstrate to a Magistrate that there was sufficient evidence of you committing that crime.

This was called a committal hearing.

It regularly involved all of the police witnesses being called to testify and any physical evidence being reviewed as well.

In some ways, it was almost like a dress rehearsal for the ultimate jury trial. Like many protections for accused persons, the governments of both Queensland and New South Wales all but removed them completely in 2018 and 2010 respectively.

Many lawyers then simply ignored the watered-down versions that continued to exist.  However, a careful legal practitioner can still make them work for their clients.


No Case to Answer

Despite now only providing for the examination of specific witnesses in very limited circumstances, the law in relation to the ultimate role of the Magistrate has not changed.

They must determine if, after considering all of the evidence offered in the police case, a properly instructed jury has a reasonable prospect of convicting you.

This is the first opportunity before the expense and risk associated with jury trial for any accused person to identify major shortcomings in the police case or defences which cannot be cured on the evidence, and persuade the Magistrate to end the proceedings there and then.

This is called demonstrating that there is no case for the accused to answer.

A recent example of this is the case of Queensland Police Service v [Name Redacted]

In this case, my client was charged with causing grievous bodily harm to the alleged victim.

This is a very serious charge and had he been convicted before a jury of it, he would have gone to prison for a long time.  The facts were that he had been involved in a physical altercation in a nightclub.

The witnesses to what occurred were all inconsistent in their recollection and, importantly, the CCTV footage showed what appeared to be the alleged victim striking out at my client and his friend.  It was my client striking back that caused him to be charged.

But in my view, there was sufficient evidence (when properly presented and explained) to raise an argument of self-defence strong enough to counter the police case.  And, as can be seen from the above transcript, my view was right and the client was discharged.

This case is merely one of my examples of how careful utilization of the dwindling options still left to an accused to avoid a trial can see him or her avoid the costs and risks of imprisonment associated with a jury trial.

If you require any assistance at all in any matter in which you are charged with offences which must be put before a jury I am only too willing to help.


Contact Michael for Legal Advice

If you’ve found yourself in this situation, contact Michael McMillan today on (07) 5619 6860 or 0409 273 430.