Where a person is charged with a minor indictable or major indictable offence, there are specific documents which must be provided to them (or their lawyer) on or before their first appearance in the Magistrates Court.
These documents are:
- a copy of the information;
- a brief description of the alleged offending;
- a notice outlining both-
- information about sentencing reductions available in relation to guilty pleas; and
- the process for having the matter called on in the Magistrates Court for the purpose of entering a guilty plea; and
- if the defendant is charged with a minor indictable offence - the appropriate form for electing to be tried in a superior court.
During the first appearance in the Magistrates Court, the police prosecutor will inform the court of the period of time they will require to prepare a preliminary brief that is, material relating to the matter such as witness statements and other materials [Criminal Procedure Act 1921 (SA) s 106]. This brief is provided to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to enable them to make a charge determination , i.e. to decide what appropriate charge(s) (if any) to proceed with.
As soon as practicable after providing the preliminary brief to the DPP, the police prosecutor must also provide a copy of the brief to the defendant (or their lawyer) and must file the brief with the Magistrates Court [s 106(1)(c)].
A defendant can call the matter on in the Magistrates Court at this stage to plead guilty to the offence(s) as charged. In these circumstances the Magistrates Court can either determine and impose a sentence on the defendant, or commit the defendant to a superior court for sentencing [Criminal Procedure Act 1921 (SA) s 108(2)]. In these instances, the matter does not have to proceed through the committal process.
It is always advisable to obtain legal advice before entering a plea at any stage of proceedings.
In pre-committal proceedings, a subpoena can only be issued by a Registrar only in specific circumstances - see section 107 of the Criminal Procedure Act 1921 (SA). In any other instance, a magistrate must determine an application for a subpoena [s 107(b)].
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