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The offences with the lesser form of punishment are called summary offences. Not only because these offences have more minor penalties, but they are generally handled in a Local Court. Summary offences are also dealt with faster and in a less complex manner compared to indictable offences.
Some indictable offences are even elected to proceed to the Local Court for hearing rather than higher Courts. And if these offences are heard in the Local Court, they will be treated Summarily, including getting the same punishment as summary offences.
Summary offences in NSW are disclosed on a Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check in NSW.
Summary offences in NSW are disclosed in accordance with NSW’s Spent Convictions Scheme.
Summary offences in NSW are broadly listed in the Summary Offences Act 1988 (NSW). In general, summary offences are less serious than indictable offences in NSW and attract imprisonment terms of less than two (2) years.
The Act also contains the description and penalties for such crimes. Other summary offences in NSW are outlined in the following Acts;
The Summary Offences Act 1988 in NSW lists similar offences under the parts of the Act. And these offences are always decided by a Magistrate in a Local Court.
Part 2, Division 1 of the Act outlines behaviours that constitute a Summary Offence.
It is an offence if a person is found guilty of acting or behaving offensively in a;
It also includes the use of offensive languages or where the person commits the offence within hearing distance of such areas.
The Court can impose punishments up to 6 penalty units or three months imprisonment term.
It is an offence to knowingly and without legal reasons expose private parts or genitalia in public. It may even be an aggravating circumstance to commit this act in a school zone.
The Court can issue penalties up to 10 penalty units or six months imprisonment terms.
It is an offence to block the free flow and passage of vehicles, vessels, motor cars and other conveyance. It matters less how or in what manner the person commits the crime. It is enough that their reckless or intentional actions blocked the traffic.
For such offences, the Court can impose penalties up to 4 penalty units.
Other offences include;
It is an offence in NSW for you to possess/consume liquor in a public place while you are under 18 years. The Court can impose penalties up to a $20 fine.
However, the person can argue against this charge by proving that;
All relevant information and terms for such offences are stated in the Liquor Act 2007 (NSW).
Section 11A of the Summary Offences Act 1988 outlines and prohibits all acts relating to violence while in public. It includes all actions that cause a person or group to fear for their lives or safety by your actions.
If the Magistrate finds you guilty of this offence, it can impose penalties up to;
In determining this offence summarily, it is immaterial in the Court that;
The violent disorder also applies to all destructive acts against property as well as towards a person.
The Summary Offences Act in NSW considers it an offence to be in possession of offensive implements in a public place or a school.
For such offences, the Court describes penalties up to 50 penalty units or two years imprisonment.
The Court can also order that the offensive equipment be surrendered to the Crown.
If such act or offence was committed by a child;
The parents will be guilty if they knowingly authorised or permitted the Act. The Court may impose five penalty units fine on them.
It is also an offence under section 11F of the Act to sell a knife or other dangerous implement to a child.
Convicted sexual offenders are always advised against frequenting child dominated areas. If such persons without reason loiter or wait around;
The Court will find them guilty of the offence. Under section 11Q of the Summary Offences Act 1988, this offence attracts 100 penalty units or two years imprisonment.
The Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) outlines all convictions and details about sexual offences in New South Wales.
It is an offence in NSW to operate a vehicle in such a way as to;
The Court can issue penalties up to 6 penalty units for such offences.
Some of the proceedings or court hearings for these offences may overlap with the prohibitions in the Road Transport Act 2013. However, a person cannot be convicted of the same crime under various legislations.
Section 15 of the Summary Offences Act prohibits living off a prostitute. It also includes anyone above 18 years;
The law stipulates a maximum punishment of 10 penalty units or 12 months imprisonment.
Part 3 of this Act also includes;
It is an offence to enter into private land and hunt for any animal in the land without the land owner's consent. The Court can impose penalties up to;
The Road Transport Act 2013 outlines acts that fault the general use of a motor or other vehicle in public. Most of the offences listed in the Road Transport Act 2013 are summary offences.
Some of them include;
However, these offences are not exclusive to a Local Court. Some of them are dealt with through infringement notices rather than a Court. It means that not all summary offences are settled in the Local Court. The law resolves some violations through infringement notices/payments.
Part 2 Division 1 of the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985 lists the Drug and related offences handled summarily.
Section 14 of the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007 prohibits all acts that fault an apprehended violence order (AVO) in NSW. Going against an AVO issued by a NSW Local court is considered a summary offence. Such offences carry maximum penalties of up to 2 years imprisonment. Breaching the conditions of an AVO will show up on a criminal history check.
Domestic Violence includes all other offences relating to domestic Violence like;
However, these offences are usually handled on indictment in higher courts. And attracts severe penalties.
Not all minor offences are handled in a Local Court or Youth Court (for children). Some crimes are settled without going to Court, even if they fall within the jurisdiction of the Magistrate. These matters are resolved through the Infringement Notice system.
The infringement notice is also called the quasi-criminal system. Offences that qualify for the infringement system don't need to be brought before a Local Court. When the official issues an infringement notice, payment of fines can settle them.
Such penalties are usually common in Driving Offences in the Road Safety Act 2013 (NSW). For example, if a traffic or Police officer pulls you over for a driving offence, it can be quickly settled by paying your tickets or abiding by the infringement notice.
The Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985 also governs summary offences of possessing small quantities of drugs of dependence in New South Wales.
Indictable offences are more severe and grievous offences under NSW legislation. These offences are primarily handled in higher courts (District/Supreme) and may incur punishment as severe as life imprisonment terms.
Some examples of these offences are;
Although out of the scope of the summary offence, it still appears in some summary offences procedures. Certain indictable offences can be heard summarily as long as both parties agree to them. If the Local Court hears an indictable offence summarily, it can only impose punishments that are allowed for a Local Court.
These offences are outlined in the Crimes Act 1900;
The Criminal Procedure Act 1986 (NSW) lists two ways to try an offence summarily;
Table 1 offences – are indictable offences handled summarily unless either the prosecution or defence elects to go to a higher court.
Table 2 offences – indictable offences that can be dealt with summarily unless the prosecutor elects. The defence does not get the chance to elect which Court hears this case. It includes;
The Police will generally prosecute a summary offence rather than the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions in NSW. However, all indictable matters are charged by the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP).
Most people prefer to hear a case summarily (when possible under the legislation) because it is;
Hearing a case summarily usually involves these processes;
The Police will submit a copy of the charge to the Magistrate through the Registrar or the Court Clerk. The charge document will inform the Court of all cases and evidence relevant to the summary offence.
After filing the charge, the Court may issue a warrant to arrest the accused (if they are not already in custody). However, for a summary offence, and when the matter does not cause a potential detriment, the Magistrate will issue a summons or court attendance notice. The Police may also arrest a person without a warrant if it is necessary to do so.
It implies the first time the charges are read to the hearing of all parties in the Court. The official must read these charges in the presence of the accused or their legal representatives.
If the defendant pleads guilty to the charges read, the Magistrate can issue immediate sentencing, and the matter finalised the same day. However, if the accused contests all or part of the charges, the Magistrate will adjourn the matter for a Contest hearing or a Summary Case conference.
The case conference is an arrangement or meeting that allows both parties to agree on parts of the charges. At a Case conference, both parties may decide to settle and resolve some Case details outside the Court.
A Contested hearing is held if the defendant chooses to plead not guilty of the charges. The Court sets another date for contested mention and lists all the adjusted charges from both parties. At the contested hearing, the Magistrate will allow the prosecution to prove the offence through all forms. The defendant also gets the right to prove their innocence of the matter.
Both parties may call in witnesses to confirm their arguments. However, the Court must be pre-informed of these witnesses and how long each hearing will take.
At the end of a Summary offence trial, the Magistrate Court may either;
Summary offences are disclosed on a national criminal background check in accordance with the spent convictions scheme legislation.
Individuals can obtain their national police checks online via the Australian National Character Check - ANCC® website.
Summary Offences Act 1988 (NSW) - https://legislation.nsw.gov.au/view/html/inforce/current/act-1988-025
Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) - https://legislation.nsw.gov.au/view/html/inforce/current/act-1900-040
Road Transport Act 2013 (NSW) - https://legislation.nsw.gov.au/view/html/inforce/current/act-2013-018
Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985 (NSW) - https://legislation.nsw.gov.au/view/html/inforce/current/act-1985-226
Electoral Act 2017 (NSW) - https://legislation.nsw.gov.au/view/whole/html/inforce/2018-07-02/act-2017-066
Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007 (NSW) - https://legislation.nsw.gov.au/view/whole/html/inforce/current/act-2007-080
Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) - https://www.odpp.nsw.gov.au/about-us
Liquor Act 2007 (NSW) - https://legislation.nsw.gov.au/view/html/inforce/current/act-2007-090
U.S. Department of Justice (Office of Justice Programs) (N.S.W Summary Offences Act 1988) - https://www.ojp.gov/ncjrs/virtual-library/abstracts/nsw-summary-offences-act-1988
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