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Indictable offences in Australia carry strict maximum penalty terms if a person is found guilty of such crimes. The defendant has a right of trial by a Judge or Jury.
Indictable offences in South Australia are a serious criminal offence and will show up on an individual's national police check in South Australia (SA).
Indictable offences can fall under any of the following categories;
Only a District or Supreme Court can hear a significant indictable trial in South Australia. These trials usually include serious charges of Murder, Rape, Treason, or life-endangering actions.
However, the Supreme court must hear all charges of Murder and treason and give a final verdict. Other serious offences may be dealt with at a Magistrates or District Court.
Other indictable offences handled in a Magistrate Court are called "Minor" indictable offences. However, the District Court may hear a Minor indictable offence if the defendant so chooses.
It is possible to have a combination of more than one charge under one trial document. It happens where the charges come from the same offence.
In such a case, the Court can decide to treat the minor indictable charge as per the same procedure for the significant indictable offence.
Also, the Superior Court may decide to send these minor indictable offences back to a Magistrate for a summary offence hearing. The Superior Court can choose to transfer the matter if it feels it is the right thing to do and considering other factors.
Indictable charges or offences in South Australia are governed by the Criminal Procedure Act 1921 (SA). The District or Supreme Court usually handles all major indictable crimes, except where both parties agree to hear the matter before a Magistrate Court.
Part 5 of the Criminal Procedure Act 1921 outlines the procedures for hearing indictable offences.
Section 100 of the Act provides details for laying and commencing a trial for an indictable offence. It includes the clause that there must be an information charge that contains the;
Statement of the specific offence a person is charged with;
Two or more charges can be joined to the same trial information for an indictable offence depending on the crime.
These charges can include;
If the joined offences contain a charge of a Major indictable crime, the Judge or Jury may hear all other joint charges the same as for major violations.
If such charges include only minor (and no major) indictable offences; all other charges joined in the information will be handled as if they were minor indictable offences.
The penalties the court issues on minor or summary offences in a joined information are not affected by the Court's procedures for more severe crimes.
The Superior Court may also order the offences in a joint charge to be treated separately. If the Court concludes it is necessary, it can transfer all relevant summary or minor indictable offences to a Magistrate court.
Subsection (5) and (6) (relating to sexual offence) provides information about handling joined charges.
Section 103 of the Act allows the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) in SA to transfer an indictment to a superior court if they consider it adequate. It does not matter if such matter is already before a Magistrate Court.
When an indictable charge is filed in a Magistrate court about a person;
The Court will issue a warrant for the accused person if they are not already in custody.
However, there must be an;
The Court can otherwise appoint a date or time for the defendant to appear concerning the charge.
When an indictable charge is filed, the matter must first proceed for a committal hearing at the Magistrate Court. However, a superior court will not hear a minor indictable offence if the defendants disagree. And this means the Magistrate court will not proceed with a committal hearing. Therefore, the matter will be dealt with by trial or by plea before a Magistrate.
If a person accused of a major indictable offence pleads guilty before a committal proceeding begins, they no longer have to submit an “answer charge”. For a guilty plea, the Magistrate court may;
The Criminal Procedure Act 1921 (SA) outlines the general procedures for a committal appearance. It follows that the charge hearing (committal proceeding) will require;
Also, a defendant can replace an original plea submitted before the end of the committal proceedings.
A defendant may withdraw the election to hear their minor indictable offence in a Superior court if;
The defendant must answer to all indictable charges against them during a committal hearing. The “answer charge” should contain all the counter-arguments of the defendant together with evidence or proof of their responses.
However, if the defendant does not plead guilty to any of the charges;
The prosecution must provide the Court with elements relating to the trials. These elements must be per section 111 of the Act and within the periods given for committal trials.
The Court must also adjourn all proceedings and appoint sufficient time for the defendant to understand and respond to all charges.
Some offences can only be treated as major indictable offences in SA. The impact of these offences is considered too serious to be handled summarily. Some of these offences are;
And other similar grave offences are always handled by a Supreme court.
A District Court handles other severe offences like Rape, Armed robbery in SA, and co.
Part 3, Division 1 of the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 (SA) defines all actions against a person that will be considered an indictable offence.
Murder is a serious indictable offence in SA. Under section 11 of the Act, of the Judge or Jury finds a person guilty of Murder, the person can get sentencing up to life imprisonment.
It also includes all cases where the person;
These are all treated as indictable offences that attract a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
Manslaughter offences are strictly indictable offences where the accused person kills their victim through some unintentional acts.
Under section 13 of the Act, the Judge/Jury can issue up to a life imprisonment term or,
Impose other penalties and fines as it considers relevant to the matter.
A person is guilty of an indictable offence if they caused the death through violent actions. It does not matter what the result of the accused person hoped. The Court under section 12A will impose penalties of 10 years imprisonment or more.
Treason offences involve acting in some ways that challenge the safety or integrity of the Crown.
Part 2, section 10A of the Act prescribes penalties up to life imprisonment for those found guilty of treasonable offences.
Assault offences may be considered minor or major indictable offences depending on the degree/circumstances of the offences.
However, assault charges that involve;
Are usually handled in a District Court.
If a judge finds a person guilty of such offences, it can impose seven years imprisonment.
The Judge may impose varying penalties to an offender who assaults a person under section 20AA of the Act (emergency services worker) intending to cause harm.
The Act prescribes penalties of up to 15-years imprisonment depending on the circumstances around the offence.
A person will be guilty of an indictable offence in SA if they shoot at a Police officer;
The Judge under section 29A of the Act can impose penalties of up to 25 years imprisonment for all those guilty of this offence.
Rape offences are one of the most severe indictable crimes in SA. A higher court can handle matters of Rape in SA.
Under section 48 of the Act, a Judge can impose penalties up to life imprisonment for this offence.
Indictable crimes are serious criminal offences in SA. The offence will be disclosed on a police check and will in most circumstances not ever be eligible to get expunged from an individual’s criminal record as per the spent convictions scheme in South Australia.
Individuals can obtain their criminal record check online via the Australian National Character Check - ANCC® website.
Criminal Procedure Act 1921 (SA) - https://www.legislation.sa.gov.au/LZ/C/A/Criminal%20Procedure%20Act%201921.aspx
Criminal Procedure Act 1921 (SA) (Austlii) - http://classic.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/sa/consol_act/cpa1921188/
Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) in SA - https://www.dpp.sa.gov.au/prosecuting-crimes/steps-in-a-major-indictable-prosecution
Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 (SA) - https://www.legislation.sa.gov.au/LZ/C/A/CRIMINAL%20LAW%20CONSOLIDATION%20ACT%201935.aspx
Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 (SA) (Austlii) - http://classic.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/sa/consol_act/clca1935262/
Law Handbook (South Australia) - https://lawhandbook.sa.gov.au/print/ch13s04.php
Legal Services Commission of South Australia - https://lsc.sa.gov.au/dsh/ch06s05.php
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