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  • Indictable Offences in South Australia (SA)

    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;

    Major Indictable offences

    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.

    Minor Indictable offence

    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.

    Multiple or Mixed Indictable Charges

    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.

    How does the Court prosecute an Indictable offence?

    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;

    • Any of the particulars necessary to such information that helps the nature of the charge.
    • If any of such information is produced orally, it must be converted to a written document.
    • Any information regarding indictable charges must proceed through the Magistrate.

    Joinder and Separation of Charges

    Two or more charges can be joined to the same trial information for an indictable offence depending on the crime.

    These charges can include;

    • Major indictable offences,
    • Minor indictable offence,
    • Summary offences.

    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.

    Pre-Committal hearings

    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;

    • Immediate threat or
    • Need to remand the accused before the Court will issue a warrant.

    The Court can otherwise appoint a date or time for the defendant to appear concerning the charge.

    Committal hearings

    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.

    Where a defendant pleads guilty before a committal trial

    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;

    • Decide and issue a sentence on the defendant, or
    • Transfer the matter to a superior court for sentencing.

    What is a Committal Proceeding?

    The Criminal Procedure Act 1921 (SA) outlines the general procedures for a committal appearance. It follows that the charge hearing (committal proceeding) will require;

    • The defendant to formally answer the charges laid against them,
    • Where the defendant does not plead guilty, the Court may go on to conclude on the evidence. After the Magistrate evaluates the case, it will then recommend the case to a superior court for sentencing.

    Also, a defendant can replace an original plea submitted before the end of the committal proceedings.

    Withdrawal of a Minor indictable offence in a superior court

    A defendant may withdraw the election to hear their minor indictable offence in a Superior court if;

    • The Magistrate discontinues to forward the case to a Superior Court for legal reasons (insufficient evidence), and
    • Where the Magistrate agrees to the evidence given in the answer charge (from the defendant).

    If the defendant does not plead guilty

    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.

    Strictly indictable offences

    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;

    • Murder,
    • Attempted murder and Manslaughter cases,
    • Treason offences,

    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.

    Indictable offences of Murder

    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;

    • Conspires or agrees with any other person to commit such Act
    • Solicits, persuades or proposes some other persons to murder the person.

    These are all treated as indictable offences that attract a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

    Manslaughter

    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.

    Causing death by an intentional act of violence

    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.

    The indictable offence of treason

    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.

    Indictable Offences of Assault

    Assault offences may be considered minor or major indictable offences depending on the degree/circumstances of the offences.

    However, assault charges that involve;

    • The use of a weapon or,
    • Have circumstances of aggravation,

    Are usually handled in a District Court.

    If a judge finds a person guilty of such offences, it can impose seven years imprisonment.

    Assaulting and Harming an emergency worker

    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.

    Shooting at a Police Officer

    A person will be guilty of an indictable offence in SA if they shoot at a Police officer;

    • With intent to wound or hit the officer, or,
    • Being reckless with it.

    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 in SA

    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.

    Do Indictable Offences show up on a criminal history check in SA?

    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.

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