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County Court

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If you have been through committal proceedings your matter will be listed in the County Court for one of the following:

Callover

Mention
directions hearing
Trial
Guilty plea

The County Court also hears APPEALS from decisions of both the Magistrates’ Court and Children’s Court.

A brief explanation of the above terms follows. This is just to give you a general idea about the terms and flow of cases in the County Court.

What is my matter listed for?

To check what a matter is listed for, go to either of the following County Court sites.

One is the list for the next day (which is generally available after 5 p.m) the other is a more general search:

county court lists
search county court

These sites do not guarantee that they are correct so also check whatever documents you have been given.

Case conference

A case conference is where the prosecution and defence are brought together to see if the matter is capable of being resolved. The prosecution prepare an outline of the facts of what they believe they can prove and what charges they believe are appropriate. They give a copy to the accused’s lawyers who then file a response stating an outline of the defence case.

The aim of this process is to identify whether a matter is capable of resolution or not.

Case conferences are held outside normal Court sitting times with an aim of keeping them short. Generally they are listed at 9 am or 4.15 and will be finished within an hour of that time.

If the matter resolves through negotiation at the case conference as a guilty plea then it will be allocated a date for that plea. Sufficient time will normally be allocated to allow you to obtain necessary reports (medical or psychological).

If the prosecution withdraws the charges by entering a nolle prosequi then the matter is finished.

If the matter can not resolve it will then be booked in for a trial and a directions hearing will also be listed.

Call-over

A call-over is similar to a case conference. There are no documents filed by the prosecution or the defence. The Judge will want to know what stage the case has got to and what amount of time the hearing of it will take. The Judge will then be able to indicate whether they can fix a date for the next stage of the matter.

Mention

A mention is where the matter is discussed with the Judge. It is not the final hearing of a matter and is the term used when some issue has to be discussed before a Judge (eg. a witness who is unavailable, further time needed to get reports).

Directions hearing

A directions hearing is heard some time shortly before a trial. They are generally heard either at 9 am or 4.15 pm and do not take very long in Court time. The prosecution have to file a Crown opening for the trial which formally explains the case against the accused. The Defendant also has to file their response to the prosecution case.

A directions hearing is a case management step and enables the Court, amongst other things) to check that witnesses are available and that the accused has funds in place to pay for their representation.

The Judge will make any necessary orders or directions relating to the case.

Trial

A trial is where the case against the accused is put before a jury of twelve people who decide on the facts of the case. The prosecution get all their witnesses to come along and give evidence and produce any other evidence that they have in their possession.

A defendant can give evidence (tell their version of events) at their trial if they want to but they are not obliged to do so.

Trials have a lot of procedure surrounding them, such as selecting a jury, and they inevitably will go for a number of days. Depending on the complexity of the matter and the number of witnesses they can continue for long periods of time.

Guilty plea

Is where a plea of guilty is entered and then submissions are made on your behalf by your lawyer. Obviously the more positive things that can be put on your behalf the better result you will get. It is important to get character references from your work and references from people who know you well and can talk about your positive characteristics.

At a guilty plea the accused can tell the Judge how the offending occurred and other people who know the defendant can speak on their behalf. If the defendant has other issues (for example, medical or psychological) witnesses can give evidence or reports be given to the Court.

Appeals

If you, or your lawyers think the decision against you was wrong, or too harsh you can appeal from the Magistrates’ Court to the County Court.

You can have an appeal against sentence (that it was too harsh). Or you can appeal against a finding of guilt or conviction (that is appeal saying you were not guilty at all).

The appeal is sometimes referred to as a hearing de novo (which simply means a new hearing) and the case is run as if there was no result in the Magistrates’ Court.

The County Court, generally. has the power to increase your penalty if you appeal. It rarely happens that there is an increase but it makes is important that you discuss an appeal with a lawyer before you lodge the appeal. If you have no chance on an appeal it is not worth appealing and risking further penalty.

If a Magistrate has imprisoned you it is possible to apply for APPEAL BAIL. If granted, this would allow you to stay out of prison until the Judge decides on your case.

You have 30 days from the date of the Magistrate making a final sentencing order against you to file an appeal. If you are late in filing an appeal you can put yourself in a position where your appeal will not be heard.

You must fill out the paperwork at the Magistrates’ Court for an appeal and sign various documents.