Where a defendant pleads not guilty during an answer charge hearing , the magistrate will consider the evidence for the purposes of determining whether the defendant should be put on trial for the offence(s) [Criminal Procedure Act 1921 (SA) s 113(2)(ii)]. The prosecutor must persuade the magistrate that there is a strong enough case against the defendant to put the defendant on trial [s 113(2)(ii)].
If, however, the defendant (or their lawyer) concedes that there is a case to answer in relation to the offence(s), the court can proceed on that basis and the defendant can be committed to trial [s 113(3)].
When determining whether there is a case to answer, the magistrate considers any statements and other materials filed with the court as contained in the committal brief. This may include witness statements that have been filed as part of the committal brief.
Where the defendant, at least two weeks' prior to the answer charge hearing, has filed a notice requesting oral examination of a witness during committal proceedings, the court can determine whether special reasons exist to grant permission for the witness to be called to give evidence.
See section 112(2), section 114(2), and section 114(3) of the Criminal Procedure Act 1921 (SA) outlining the special reasons for calling witnesses to give oral evidence.
If the court determines that special reasons exist, the witness can be called to give evidence from the witness box. The usual oath is administered, and the witness can then be examined, cross-examined, and re-examined in the usual manner [s 114(4)].
After considering the evidence (and any oral evidence of witnesses), the magistrate must decide if there is evidence from which, if believed by the jury, the defendant could be convicted (a prima facie case). If there is, the defendant is committed for trial in the District or Supreme Court. whichever is appropriate [Criminal Procedure Act 1921 (SA) s 115(3)].
The magistrate will fix a date for the next hearing in the proceedings, the arraignment, which is heard in a superior court.
Prior to the arraignment hearing, both prosecution and defence have to file and serve case statements on the other party. The prosecution must file their case statement not less than 6 weeks' prior to the arraignment date [s 123(1)(b)], and the defence is required to file their case statement no later than 4 weeks' after being given the prosecution case statement [s 123(3)].
The content of the prosecution case statement is outlined in section 123(2) of the Criminal Procedure Act 1921 (SA), and the content of the defence case statement is outlined in section 123(4) of the Criminal Procedure Act 1921 (SA).
For matters where:
- the charge is treason, murder, or an attempt or conspiracy or assault with intent to commit either of those offences; or
- the circumstances of the offence are of unusual gravity; or
- the offence involves an unusually difficult question of law or fact, then -
the matter should be committed for trial in the Supreme Court. In any other case, the matter can be sent to the District Court [Criminal Procedure Act 1921 (SA) s 117(3)].
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