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The Courts 

There are three courts dealing with criminal matters in the ACT 

Childrens Court 

Magistrates Court 

Supreme Court 

The Childrens Court 

In the Childrens Court the person charged with an offence or offences is called the ‘young person’. The Childrens Court has a separate entrance from the Magistrates Court. It is a closed court, which means that the general public are not able to attend and observe. The names of children charged with offences cannot be published.

Courts work in a step-by-step process each step is called an “appearance”. The first court appearance the young person makes is called a “mention”. The young person may enter a plea at this time or ask for another mention date to allow them to seek legal advice. More than one adjournment may be granted if the Magistrate is satisfied that this is appropriate.

If you are the victim in the matter, you do not need to attend court at this time.

If the young person pleads guilty, they may be sentenced immediately, or the matter may be adjourned for reports to be prepared.

If the young person pleads not guilty, their case is adjourned to another date for a case management hearing (CMH). At the CMH, the defence and the prosecution will discuss aspects of the case to see if it is ready to proceed to hearing. If both parties are ready, the case will be listed for hearing at a later date. The defendant may change their plea of not guilty to a plea of guilty at any time during proceedings.

If you are the victim in the matter, you do not need to attend court at the CMH stage but you do have a right to be kept informed of the progress of your case.

Depending on the nature of the offence, the young person may be required to have the case dealt with in the Childrens Court. In some cases, the young person may have a right to choose to have the case heard by the Childrens or Supreme Court or be required to have the case dealt with in the Supreme Court.

A defended hearing is when all witnesses including the victim and police may be required to give evidence. For some victims and witnesses, it is possible to give their evidence from a remote witness room. The prosecutor will advise you if you are able to give evidence in this way.

It is important that as a witness, you do not discuss your evidence with other potential witnesses as this could affect the case.

More information on the Childrens Court can be found on the Court website.

Magistrates Court 

In the Magistrates Court the person charged with an offence or offences is called the 'defendant'. Courts work in a step-by-step process each step is called an “appearance”. The first court appearance the defendant makes is called a “mention”. The defendant may enter a plea at this time or ask for another mention date to allow them to seek legal advice. More than one adjournment may be granted if the Magistrate is satisfied that this is appropriate.

If you are the victim in the matter, you do not need to attend court at this time.

If the defendant pleads guilty, they may be sentenced immediately, or the matter may be adjourned for reports to be prepared.

If the defendant pleads not guilty, their case may be listed for a hearing immediately, or if the offence is more serious adjourned for a brief of evidence to be provided to the parties. Depending on the nature of the offence, the defendant may be required to have the case dealt with in the Magistrates Court. In some cases, the defendant may have a right to choose to have the case heard by the Magistrates or Supreme Court or be required to have the case dealt with in the Supreme Court.

The defendant may change their plea from not guilty to guilty at any stage during the proceedings.

As the victim in the matter, you do not need to attend court for these preliminary stages but you do have a right to be kept informed of the progress of your case.

A defended hearing is when all witnesses including the victim and police may be required to give evidence. For some victims and witnesses, it is possible to give their evidence from a remote witness room. The prosecutor will advise you if you are able to give evidence in this way.

It is important that as a witness, you do not discuss your evidence with other potential witnesses as this could affect the case.

More information on the Magistrates Court is available on the Court website.

Supreme Court 

Once committal proceedings are completed in the Magistrates or Childrens Courts a person may be committed to the Supreme Court for a trial or to be sentenced.In the Supreme Court the person charged with an offence or offences is called the accused.

If the case is sent to the Supreme Court, the first step is for the matter to go before the Registrar for a directions hearing. The purpose of this is to identify a suitable date for the indictment (a list of the charges) and the case statement to be formally filed with the Court.

If the accused has pleaded guilty, a date for sentencing will be set.

If the accused has pleaded not guilty, the case enters a pre-trial stage. During this stage the court may list the case for directions to ensure that any issues are resolved and the case is ready to proceed to trial. Directions will also be given about the period or 'court sittings' when the trial may be held.

The victim does not need to attend court at any of these directions hearings.

If the accused has pleaded not guilty they can choose to have the case dealt with by a judge alone or by a jury in most cases. For some types of offences, such as sexual offences or murder charges the accused must be tried by a jury.

The trial is when all the witnesses give their evidence. The victim may be required at this time. For some victims, it is possible to give their evidence from a remote witness room, rather than go into the court room. The prosecutor will let you know whether you are able to give your evidence in this way.

It is important that as a witness, you do not discuss your evidence with other potential witnesses as this can affect the case.

You have a right to be kept informed of the progress of your case.

More information on the Supreme Court can be found on the Court website.