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What is an Indictable Offence? A Brief Overview for Western Australia

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What is an Indictable offence?

An indictable offence pertains to more severe criminal offences that, if proven, can result in significant penalties, often including longer jail terms. The term “indictable” comes from the word “indictment”, which is a formal written statement made by a prosecuting authority (the Department of Public Prosecutions). This statement details the crime the accused person is alleged to have committed.

In simpler terms, think of an indictment as an official charge sheet that says, “We believe this person did this serious crime, and here’s why.”

Now, in Western Australia’s legal system, offences and crimes are generally sorted into three main buckets:

  1. Simple offences: These are less severe matters, like minor traffic violations or petty theft. They’re usually dealt with quickly in lower courts without a jury and before a Magistrate.
  2. Either way offences: These are crimes that can, as the name suggests, be dealt with either in the local court or the higher courts and include crimes like fraud or indecent assault.
  3. Indictable offences: These are the more serious crimes, like robbery or deprivation of liberty. They often require a more formal court process, usually involving a judge and sometimes a jury, in higher courts.

Knowing the difference between these three types of offences is essential, especially if you or someone you know is involved in a legal matter.

Distinguishing Features

  1. Severity:

Indictable offences are generally more severe in nature compared to simple offences. Examples include serious assaults, robbery, murder, and certain drug offences.

  1. Court Proceedings:

Indictable charges are typically heard in the District or Supreme Court of Western Australia, as opposed to the Magistrates Court where simple offences are usually dealt with.

  1. Right to a Jury Trial:

One of the significant features of indictable offences is that the accused has the right to a trial by jury, though certain conditions might apply.

Either Way Offences

Some offences in Western Australia are termed ‘either way offences’. This means that while they can be treated as indictable or they can be heard summarily in the Magistrates Court. This decision often depends on the specifics of the case, the potential penalties involved, and any applications made by either defence or the prosecution.

Penalties for Indictable Offences

Given their serious nature, indictable offences often come with substantial penalties, including lengthy imprisonment terms. The exact penalty varies depending on the specific offence, its severity, and any prior convictions of the accused.

Seeking Legal Advice

If you or someone you know is facing an indictable charge, it’s imperative to seek legal counsel. Given the complexities and potential consequences associated with such charges, having a knowledgeable legal representative can make a significant difference in the outcome of the case. If you need assistance, please contact our experienced lawyers today

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Legal Process For Indictable Offences

  1. First Hearing
  • Purpose: Initial court appearance for the accused.
  • Location: Magistrates Court closest to where the offence occurred.
  • Outcome: Typically, the case is adjourned for approximately ten weeks to allow the WA Police to provide relevant evidence to the accused or their legal representative. The case is then listed for the Police Committal Mention Hearing.
  1. Police Committal Mention Hearing
  • Purpose: Confirm that the accused has received all relevant evidence related to the offence(s).
  • Location: Magistrates Court closest to where the offence occurred.
  • Outcomes:
    • If all evidence is received: The case is listed for a State Committal Hearing and transferred to the Perth Magistrates Court. For regional cases, it’s transferred to the nearest Magistrates Court with an available District Court Circuit Court.
    • If evidence is incomplete: The case is adjourned to allow for missing disclosure. It will then be listed for another Police Committal Mention Hearing.
  1. State Committal Mention Hearing
  • Purpose: Transition of the case from WA Police to the Department of Public Prosecution (DPP). The accused will enter pleas.
  • Location: Perth Magistrates Court or the relevant District Court Circuit Court (for regional matters).
  • Outcome: Depending on the plea(s) entered, the case will proceed in one of two directions:
  1. If Plea(s) of Guilty are Entered
    • Sentence Mention Hearing

A Sentence Mention Hearing is a procedural step in the court process, typically taking place after an accused person has entered a plea of guilty to an offence but before they are formally sentenced by the court.

The primary aim of this hearing is to ensure that all necessary preparations are in place for the actual sentencing. This could involve checking that all required reports (like Pre-Sentence Reports, Psychological Reports, etc.) have been prepared and submitted. It’s a chance for the court to determine if everything is ready to proceed to the formal sentencing stage.

  • Purpose: Determine if requested reports (e.g., Pre-Sentence Report, Psychological Report) have been received and if the case is ready for a Sentence Hearing.
  • Location: District Court, before a Registrar (a senior administrative official in a court).
  • Outcome: If ready, a date for the Sentence Hearing is set.
  • Sentence Hearing

A Sentence Hearing is a formal court proceeding where the penalty or punishment for an individual who has pleaded guilty to, or been found guilty of, a criminal offence is determined and imposed.

  • Purpose: Both the DPP and the accused’s legal representative present submissions regarding the offence and the sought penalty.
  • Location: District Court, before a Judge.
  • Factors Considered: In determining the sentence, the court will consider various factors, including:
    • The seriousness of the offence.
    • The offender’s criminal history (if any).
    • Any remorse or reparations made by the offender.
    • The impact of the crime on the victim(s) or the community.
    • Any mitigating or aggravating circumstances.
  • Outcome: The Judge imposes a penalty, finalising the matter.
  1. If Plea(s) of Not Guilty are Entered
    • Trial Listing Hearing

A Trial Listing Hearing is a procedural step in the court process that takes place before the main trial. Its primary purpose is to ensure that all necessary preparations are in place for the trial to proceed smoothly.

  • Purpose: Determine if the case is ready for trial or if there are unresolved issues.
  • Location: District Court, before a Judge.
  • Procedure:
    • The court, often represented by a judge, will review the readiness of both the prosecution and the defence for the trial.
    • Both sides may discuss any challenges they foresee, such as the availability of witnesses or the need for specific evidence.
    • If everything is in order, a date for the actual Trial Hearing will be set. If there are unresolved matters, the Trial Listing Hearing might be adjourned to a later date.
  • Outcome: If ready, a trial date is set.
  • Trial Hearing

A Trial Hearing is the formal court proceeding where the evidence related to a criminal or civil case is presented, and a determination of guilt or liability is made.

  • Purpose: The case is presented, and evidence is assessed.
  • Location: District Court, typically before a Jury. A Judge may preside without a Jury if an application is made.
  • Procedure:
    • Presentation of Evidence: Both sides will present their evidence, which can include witness testimonies, physical evidence, expert opinions, and more.
    • Cross-Examination: Witnesses can be cross-examined by the opposing side to challenge their credibility or the accuracy of their testimony.
    • Closing Arguments: After all evidence has been presented, both sides will give their closing arguments, summarising their case and emphasising key points.
    • Decision: In criminal cases, a jury (or sometimes just a judge, depending on the jurisdiction and nature of the case) will decide on the guilt or innocence of the accused. In civil cases, a determination of liability will be made.
  • Outcome: The Jury (or Judge) delivers a verdict based on the evidence presented during the trial.


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*This information serves as a general guide and does not constitute legal advice. It is based on our research and experience at the time of publication. Please consult our knowledgeable legal team for any specific inquiries or advice relevant to your circumstances, as the content may not have been updated subsequently.

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