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Major indictable reform

Backlogs in our criminal court system mean that justice is delayed for victims of crime and witnesses are waiting for extensive periods of time for matters to be resolved. The government is committed to reducing the time it takes for matters to come to trial and to implementing reforms that will encourage the earlier resolution of serious criminal offences, which will benefit all participants in the system. 

Summary Procedure (Indictable Offences) Amendment Bill 2016

The Summary Procedure (Indictable Offences) Amendment Bill 2016 has been introduced to Parliament, and is due to be considered in 2017. 

The Bill makes changes to the Summary Procedure Act 1921, the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 and the Criminal Law (Sentencing) Act 1988. It enables courts, police, forensic services and prosecutors to focus their resources where they are most needed, and ease the pressure on our courts system.

The changes aim to reduce unnecessary hearings by setting realistic time frames and making the prosecution and defence prepare case statements to identify the matters that are in dispute in advance of trial. 

The changes include:

  • requiring the Director of Public Prosecutions to decide what charges the defendant will face earlier - before court processes begin
  • giving courts the discretion to set the time between appearances in the Magistrates Court depending on the individual case, reducing the number of court appearances that occur to seek an adjournment
  • offering scaled discounts on sentences when a person enters an early guilty plea or cooperates with the prosecution, with discounts ranging between 10% and 40% depending on how early this occurs
  • introducing a tiered disclosure scheme, requiring prosecutors to disclose primary evidence to the defence earlier, encouraging guilty pleas to be entered further in advance and supporting negotiations outside of court
  • requiring case statements to be filed by the prosecution and the defence prior to a matter appearing in the District or Supreme Courts, helping to promptly identify the matters that are genuinely in dispute and enabling court, police, forensic and prosecution resources to focus on those matters.

Consultation on these changes occurred prior to the Bill being submitted to Parliament, closing on Tuesday 18 October 2016. The consultation led to the government making changes to the Bill to ensure that compliance mechanisms apply to both the prosecution and defence and that subpoenas for documents are only issued with consent of the parties or are overseen by judicial officers.

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Consultation paper

The Efficient progression and resolution of major indictable matters - consultation paper (PDF 1.29MB) proposes substantial changes to the way in which major indictable matters progress, with a view to greater overall system efficiency.

The consultation period for this paper closed on 30 April 2015.

The paper outlines a range of recommendations including:

  • a system for pre-charge bail
  • changes to the committal process for major indictable offences 
  • an enhanced pre-trial disclosure for both the prosecution and the defence.

This will be a significant shift for all parties in the criminal justice system, but it is crucial to bring about truly effective improvement.