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  • Indictable Offences in the Northern Territory (NT)

    Schedule I, Part 1 of Division 1 (3) of the Criminal Code Act 1983 (NT) defines an offence as either indictable or summary offences.

    Indictable offences are more serious offences where the penalty exceeds the maximum penalty a Magistrate Court can impose for the matter.

    Indictable offences are a serious criminal offence and will show up on an individual's national police check in the NT.

    What makes an offence indictable in the NT

    An offence is indictable if;

    • An Act or any special legislation makes it an indictable offence;
    • The penalty that can be imposed on the offender is greater than 2 years;
    • It includes all serious offences that do not fall under the Magistrate (Court of Summary Jurisdiction).

    How does the NT court handle indictable charges?

    Indictable offences are dealt with in a Supreme Court after passing through committal hearings. Almost all offences that are not treated in Local (Magistrate) Courts are handled in the Supreme Court. These trials are usually for serious indictable offences including;

    What is a committal proceeding?

    These are preliminary hearings held in a (Magistrate) Court that;

    • Determines if the matter will proceed to the Supreme Court,
    • If the evidence is sufficient enough to proceed to the indictment trial.

    The procedures for a committal proceeding

    The first procedure for an indictable offence is to lay the information that contains the case.

    An information for an indictable offence is presented where;

    1. A person is accused or suspected of committing the indictable offence within the territory, or
    2. A person suspected of committing such offences out of the Territory;
    • Is in the Territory, or
    • Is suspected to be in the Territory.

    Joint charges

    The Criminal Code Act 1983 (NT) allows charges to be joined in an information charge, if the offences are from a sequence of events or actions.

    However, if the court thinks it necessary, it can deal with such charges separately

    Issuing a warrant for arrest

    • If the prosecutor lays charges before the court, and,
    • The case is submitted under oath or with a witness,

    The Judge, Registrar or JP will also issue a summons for the defendant if they are not already in custody. If the defendant does not obey the instructions of the summons, the court will issue a warrant for their arrest.

    What happens in a committal brief?

    The Magistrate Court conducts a committal proceeding where the committal brief is served.

    The committal brief contains;

    • A copy of the information for the charge relevant to the preliminary examination,
    • Show information about the procedures for a preliminary examination,
    • It must also contain a Notice per the Rules under section 48 of the Local Court Act 2015 (NT).
    • The list of the persons the prosecutor wants to present as evidence in the preliminary examination
    • All other documents or other evidence, the prosecutor will present as evidence.

    Pleading before a court without evidence

    If the defendant appears before the court, and such offences can be determined summarily;

    • The defendant can plead guilty at any time in the proceeding,
    • It doesn’t matter if a statement has been taken from the witness, and,
    • The Court will at the commencement proceedings tell them of their rights to plead.

    Where the defendant pleads guilty to such offence without evidence

    The procedure of the court will be the same, including all provisions of the Act. The Court will treat such a plea as if the charge is for a summary offence.

    However, if the court concludes that the defendant pleaded too early considering other facts coming from the prosecution;

    • The court will order the defendant to withdraw their plea,
    • Ask the defendant to postpone making a plea for the offence until the Part is concluded.

    Procedures when all evidences are concluded

    When the prosecutor exhausts all its evidences and material relating to the case, the court must consider;

    • If it is sufficient to put the defendant on trial for the indictable offence,
    • If the evidence is not sufficient, the defendant may be remanded in custody.

    The Court concludes the evidence is sufficient

    If the court concludes that the evidence the prosecutor submits is sufficient to convict the person of an indictable offence, the court will consider;

    • If the charge is one that will be heard or determined summarily.
    • If it is an offence that is punishable with life imprisonment (indictable)

    The Defendant's right in the court

    During a preliminary examination, the court must explain the following actions to the defendant reasonably;

    • Their rights to answer the charge,
    • They can give evidence on oath to prove their defence, and,
    • They can invite other witnesses to give evidence under oath, but not mandatory.

    Where the defendant gives evidence in a preliminary hearing;

    • They may be cross-examined and interrogated by the prosecution, and,
    • Their words or answers will be recorded and may be used in trial.

    The court may not give an explanation if the defendant is represented by a legal practitioner. However, they must be satisfied that the legal practitioner has explained all the requirements to the defendant.

    Can the Magistrate Court remand the defendant during a trial?

    While the court is conducting a preliminary examination, they can remand the person in custody. Usually, the court will require the person to be in the custody of the Correctional Services. It must be for a period;

    • Not more than 3 clear days orally, or
    • By warrant.

    Where the Court issues Bail

    As an alternative to keeping a defendant in custody, the court can grant them bail under. All bail conditions must satisfy the conditions set in the Bail Act 1982 (NT).

    Transferring the “Charge Documents” to the Supreme Court

    When a defendant is committed for trial at the Supreme Court, the Director of Public Prosecutions in the NT (DPP) must deliver a copy of the committal brief. The DPP must deliver the documents to the proper officer at the supreme court before or on the first day of the hearing.

    Indictable Offences that are dealt with summarily

    The court will hear and determine certain indictable offences summarily.

    These include offences in the Criminal Code Act 1983 for the following sections;

    And other offences stipulated by the Code that can be treated Summarily.

    Do Indictable Offences committed in the NT show up on a national criminal record check?

    Indictable offences are serious criminal offences. The offence will be disclosed on a national police clearance.

    Due to the seriousness of indictable offences and their long associated prison terms, an indictable offence will not get expunged from an individual’s criminal record as per the spent convictions scheme in the NT.

    Individuals can obtain their nationally coordinated criminal history check (NCCHC) online via the Australian National Character Check - ANCC® website.

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