When a person is apprehended for a commission of an offence, he will either be tried before the magistrate or by the judge and a jury. And any person may wonder why this is so. Offences under the statute are classified into indictable and summary offences which is important in imposing the penalty as well as the procedure that will be undertaken by the Court.
The distinction between the indictable offences and summary offences pertains to the mode of trial and which is of a procedural importance. Indictable offences are offences which are tried by both judge and a jury. The person charged with an indictable offence will be subjected to a committal hearing, which is a preliminary hearing before a magistrate, then forwarded to the court for trial by a judge and jury.
The judge supervised the procedure especially admission of the evidence and then rule on any question of both facts and law while the jury on the other hand decides on the facts including the ultimate facts whether the offender is guilty of the crime charged.
On the other hand, summary offences are those which are tried by a magistrate alone in a court known as court of petty sessions or local courts, without any jury to decide on the facts of the case to determine the guilt of the offender. Summary offences are less serious in nature compared with indictable offences.
The accused brought before the magistrate for an offence of less serious in nature have the option to either plead guilty or pay the fine. Usually, summary offences which are common in all jurisdictions in Australia involve driving offences on public roads.
Although the distinction pertains to the procedure in the trial of an offence, almost all jurisdictions make use of this and become the basis of other distinction in the states’ criminal procedure.
Disclaimer : This article is just a summary of the subject matter being discussed and should not be regarded as a comprehensive legal advice for you to defend yourself alone. If you are charged with criminal offences, it is recommended that you seek legal assistance from criminal lawyers.