What is a Contest Mention?
The article What is a Contest Mention? is written by Josh Harris, Lawyer, Doogue + George Defence Lawyers.
Josh Harris was admitted to practice in February 2019 after completing a Juris Doctor and a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Melbourne. Before joining Doogue + George, he was an associate at the County Court of Victoria to HH Judge Lyon.
Josh is experienced in indictable crimes such as sexual offences, drug trafficking, and culpable driving. When he was a Senior Associate to the Criminal Reserve List, he was involved in the high level planning, administration, and finalising of all criminal matters listed in the County Court.
You may have heard your lawyer refer to your matter ‘proceeding to contest mention hearing’. A ‘summary contest’ is what we call a ‘trial’ in the Magistrates’ Court. The summary contest is heard by a Magistrate who will determine your guilt (unlike in the County Court or Supreme Court where a jury decides). It is for charges that are summary offences. This is really the first substantive hearing for your matter (and often where the most gets done!). Before the Court will adjourn the matter to a summary contest a contest mention will be held.
At a contest mention, under s 55 of the Criminal Procedure Act 2009, the Magistrates and the parties will discuss:
- Time estimates and witness availability/requirements;
- The strength and weakness of the available evidence;
- Whether all the documents we have requested have been provided and order anything else be produced; and
- Anything else the Magistrate thinks is relevant.
At the Contest Mention the matter can be progressed significantly and it is an important moment to resolve the case, narrow the issues and for the Prosecution and Defence (with your instructions!) to meaningfully assess the case in consultation with the Magistrate.
A number of things may occur:
- The Prosecution may agree to withdraw the charges;
- A sentence indication may be requested. The Magistrate will tell you the sentence they would impose if you plead guilty to the charges before the Court; or
- Your lawyer may persuade the Magistrate to give their view on the merits of the Prosecution case.
Do I have to attend or can I get my lawyer to go?
You must attend the contest mention hearing (s 55(4) CPA). Your bail or summons will be extended to this date. If you are on remand you will be transported to Court to attend. It is an important opportunity for you, you lawyer and your police to try and resolve the matter.
Will the informant be there?
It is less and less common for the Informant to attend Contest Mentions these days.
Can I get sentenced at the contest mention?
If the matter has resolved after your lawyer has negotiated the appropriate charges with the Police Prosecutor you might be able to do the plea at the contest mention. This will depend on how much time is allocated to your matter on the day and the length of any summaries to be read and submissions that will be made on your behalf.
I did not do it. I want to contest the charges. Can we skip this step?
No. The Court will only adjourn your matter to a summary contested hearing after they have confirmed that parties have made an effort to resolve the matter. Even if the matter can’t be resolved it is important to ensure that the Police have provided all the necessary documents to your lawyer and that the issues in the dispute are narrowed as much as possible.
If I am pleading guilty why do I need a lawyer?
Even if you decide after the mention that you want to plead guilty at contest mention it is important for you to be represented by a lawyer at Court. We make sure that the charges filed against you are appropriate and fair. The Magistrates’ court procedure can be complicated the case management obligations can be onerous. It is important to have an expert on your side to help engage with the Police (who have a lot of resources to Prosecute you!)