The Criminal Procedure Act 2009 (Vic) (“CP Act”) commenced on 1 January 2010. The CP Act locates in the one Act the criminal procedures that apply in the Magistrates’, County and Supreme Courts of Victoria.
The Judicial College of Victoria (JCV) has prepared the Victorian Criminal Proceedings Manual, which explains in detail the law of criminal procedure as it applies to criminal proceedings under the CP Act. This is available on the JCV website at www.judicialcollege.vic.edu.au.
The procedure for summary offences can be found in chapter 3 of the CP Act. Under the CP Act (s 27), summary offences will continue to be heard in the Magistrates’ Court. The CP Act also amends the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 (Vic) to introduce a six-month time limit for the filing of charges for summary offences in the Children’s Court.
The procedures for indictable matters are dealt with in chapter 5 of the CP Act. They will continue to be heard by a judge and jury. Indictable offences that may be heard in the Magistrates’ Court (if the defendant consents) are:
• those listed in schedule 2;
• any offence punishable by 10 years imprisonment or less; or
• those where the offence is punishable by 10 years imprisonment or less, or a maximum fine not exceeding 120 penalty units (pu) (see “A note about penalty units”).
The procedure for dealing with committals is dealt with in parts 4.6 to 4.8.
Mention, summary case conference and contest mention hearings
Under the CP Act, the mention hearing process remains the same.
The summary case conference procedure is described in section 54. It is a conference between the prosecution and the accused for the purpose of managing the progression of a case. The procedure includes the prosecution providing the accused with all the information and documents that may assist the accused to understand the evidence relied upon in the case. It also includes identifying any issues in dispute and identifying steps to be taken to advance the case. The Magistrates’ Court directs the parties to attend a case conference if it is satisfied the conference is appropriate.
The contest mention hearing is described in section 55. At that hearing the magistrate may require the prosecution and defence to:
• give an estimate of the time the contested case will take;
• advise regarding the estimated number and availability of witnesses;
• identify the issues in dispute;
• advise whether there is any problem with legal representation or the funding of a case;
• advise whether interpreters will be required or other facilities will be needed for witnesses (e.g. video link requirements if a witness is interstate);
• order a party to file and serve written or oral material required by the court;
• amend any documents that have been filed; and
• do anything else for the management of the case.
These requirements are all directed towards the efficient management of the case. The defendant must attend all contest mention hearings.
Trials in the County and Supreme Courts are governed by chapter 5 of the CP Act.
Appeals from the Magistrates’ Court to the County Court are dealt with in part 6.1. Appeals on questions of law from the Magistrates’ Court to the Supreme Court are dealt with in part 6.2.