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Charges and Trials

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What Information does my Lawyer get and what is done with it ?

Your lawyer gets all the paperwork to do with the Police investigation that led to the charges against you. It is called “disclosure”. It includes the statements by the people that will be witnesses at any trial of the charges.

You can have a copy of most things for yourself (but not copies of all DVD interviews), or your lawyer can explain it to you. Discuss with your lawyer which way of dealing with it is going to work best for you and your case.

In some cases you will only need to see the Summary of Facts ~ see below.

It is important that you understand the case that there is against you, and what evidence will be given.  Make appointments with your lawyer to discuss your case, and keep them.  Make sure you and your lawyer both have enough time to get through the issues you need to talk about.

Your lawyer will discuss the evidence with you, and ask you which parts of it you agree with, and which parts you don’t agree with.  Usually the more information you can give your lawyer, the better they are able to advise you.  It is very important to tell your lawyer everything about the prosecution case that you don’t agree with.

You will probably know a lot more about some of the witnesses than the lawyer learns from the disclosure material.  Make notes about anything in particular you think your lawyer should know about any witnesses or incidents or documents.

Sometimes you will dispute some of the disclosure material, and it will be possible to make further enquiries (for example, a witness might say that she lived in a house for 2 years, but your memory is that she only lived there for 6 months).  You and your lawyer will discuss who is going to make the further enquiries.

Summary of Facts

Your lawyer will give you a summary of facts saying what you are charged with, and what the Police witness say happened. Read this carefully, so you can tell your lawyer what you agree with, and what you don’t agree with. You can make notes on it.

Do you have any evidence about things you say are wrong in the Summary of Facts? Are there any people who can say what they saw, any photos, or any text messages or Facebook posts that show that what you think is right? Write these things down to show your lawyer, or send them to your lawyer.

Your lawyer will discuss the charges with you, and ask you questions about them – see above under “What Information does  my Lawyer get?”

The Charge or Charges are at the top of the Summary of Facts, and each refer to a section and an Act.

You can look up what the exact charge is by searching for the Act that applies to you in the Offences tab at the top of this website.  Go to the Act and then to the section number that relates to your charge.

The penalty printed on the Summary of Facts is the maximum, and is for the most serious cases of that offence.

The Charge or Charges

This is at the top of the Summary of Facts.

It will refer to a section and an Act. You can look up what the exact charge is by finding the Act you have been charged under in the Offences tab at the top of the website. Go to the Act and then find the section number.

The penalty printed on the Summary of Facts is the maximum, and is for the most serious cases of that offence.

Early Guilty Plea Discounts

Usually the Court will give you a discount on the sentence for your charges if you plead guilty early, because it saves the Police and the Court time. You can still get a discount if it takes time to sort out the Summary of Facts, and it is sorted out the way you wanted. Click here for more information

Disputed Facts Hearings

Sometimes you admit that the charge itself happened (e.g an assault, or possession of cannabis), but you don’t agree that everything in the Summary of Facts is right. Or you admit that something happened, but say it was less serious than the charge against you.

Talk to your lawyer about asking Police to change the charge, or pleading guilty and having a Disputed Facts Hearing. Sometimes the Police will change the Summary of Facts without a hearing, and sometimes there has to be a hearing with witnesses. You can then be sentenced on the basis of the facts in the Summary of Facts, or the facts that the Court finds after a hearing.

Sentence Indication Hearings

You can ask the Court to indicate what sentence you would get if you pleaded guilty to the charge, and accepted the summary of facts. A Judge will also take into account any previous convictions you have, and information about the victim. The Judge will indicate what sentence, or what range of sentences, would be likely if you pleaded guilty to the charge/s. You can then decide whether to plead guilty or not guilty.

Sentence indication hearings are most often helpful when you want to know whether you will definitely go to prison, or could get home detention, or where you want to know how long a prison sentence is likely to be.  There is more information here.

Do I have a Defence?

A defence is being able to show that you are not guilty of the charge.

There are lots of different defences, and your lawyer will talk to you about the ones that might apply in your case after you have talked about the evidence that the Police have.

For a complicated matter your lawyer will type up a statement of your side of the story, and ask you to check it is correct.   This helps your lawyer give you good advice about what defences you might have, and is an important part of running the trial (if there is one).

If you don’t have a defence, you can still make the Police prove the charge against you.

The decision about which defence you argue is for you to make.   If you have more than one charge you may have different defences for some of them.

Your lawyer’s job is to tell you about the charges, the evidence that witnesses will give, and the law about the crimes you are charged with.

The two of you together can then discuss the available defences before you decide which one (or more) applies to your case.

It is important that you and your lawyer both understand the defence or defences that you have chosen, and how it will affect the way you case is run.

Giving Evidence at a Trial

You decide whether you give evidence at your trial. Your lawyer’s job is to make sure that you have as much information as you need to make the decision. Some of the things that can be taken into account when you make this decision are:

• Did I make a good statement to the police?

• Is there anything I want to say in evidence that is not in that statement?

• Do I want to or need to explain telling lies to police?

• Will I get upset or angry giving evidence?

• How likely is it that I will be convicted if I don’t give evidence?

  • How will I feel if I am convicted without the jury hearing my side of the story?

After making sure that you have all the necessary information, your lawyer will probably tell whether they advise you to give evidence or not give evidence, and give you their reasons.

It is important to understand that you do not have to go along with your lawyer’s advice about this. Your lawyer will accept and act on your decision to give evidence or not give evidence, whether or not your decision is the same as their advice.

It is usual for your decision about giving evidence to be written down and signed by you.

Defence Witnesses

Your lawyer can call witnesses to give evidence at the trial.

You and your lawyer will discuss what witnesses could be available, and what they might say, or what information they might produce (such as work timesheets or text messages or Facebook pages).

Once it is known what a witness could say, your lawyer will give you their view about whether the witness should be called to give evidence. However, the final decision about that is for you to make. Your lawyer will call the witnesses that you want called.

The only exception to this will be if the only evidence that the witness can give is evidence that the Judge would not allow to be given (either because it is not relevant to the issues in the trial, or the law says that the evidence is not allowed).

Sometimes your lawyer will ask you to get possible witnesses to contact them, and sometimes your lawyer will ask you for the contact details for a possible witness.

It is important that you and your lawyer understand who is doing what, so that possible witnesses do not get overlooked or not contacted.

Make sure that you and you lawyer both understand which witnesses are going to be called, and when they will need to be at Court.

Witnesses can be paid expenses for coming to Court.

Witnesses can be summonsed to come to Court – that means that the Court orders them to turn up to give evidence whether they want to or not.

Make a note of any possible witnesses that you think of before you see your lawyer.

Updated on June 7, 2021

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