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Common listings in criminal law matters in Queensland

The Court system in Queensland for criminal matters is made up of three courts

  1. The Magistrates Court;
  2. The District Court; and
  3. The Supreme Court.

Within each court and at each stage of your matter, your matter will be listed in different ways which can be quite confusing if you’re unfamiliar with the legal lingo. This short blog explains the legal mumbo jumbo in plain English to help you understand what stage your matter is up to.

Bail Application

This is a hearing where the defendant makes an application to court to be released on bail. Bail is a signed agreement that a defendant enters into to attend court when required and abide by any conditions the Magistrate or Judge thinks is appropriate. Depending on the nature of the charge, bail conditions may vary in seriousness from no conditions to reporting, curfew and residential conditions.

When deciding whether to release someone from custody, there are many things a Magistrate or Judge must consider including the risk to the community, whether the defendant is a risk of re-offending and whether or not the defendant is a risk of failing to appear in court. The factors a Presiding Judge or Magistrate must consider are contained within legislation.

Summary mention / summary call over

In Queensland, criminal offences are classed in different ways. Some offences may be able to be finalised in the Magistrates Court and are often referred to as ‘summary matters’.

When a matter is referred to a ‘summary matter’ it means the matter, due to the nature of the charge, is able to be finalised summarily in the Magistrates Court. As such these matters are listed in a summary call-over and referred to as summary mentions.

Arraignment

Is the formal process where the court requires a defendant to place on record whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty. During an arraignment, the court will read out the charges and ask the defendant how they want to plead, guilty or not guilty.

Plea

A plea of guilty is a listing where the client has provided their legal representatives with instructions that they accept responsibility for the offences and wish to be sentenced accordingly. A plea finalises matters and the presiding Magistrate or Judge will issue a penalty after hearing from the Prosecution and the defendant’s solicitor.

The penalty imposed on someone for an offence depends on a large number of factors including the seriousness of the charges, personal circumstances of the defendant including previous criminal history and the nature of any rehabilitation done by the defendant etc. These factors are contained within legislation.

For a Magistrate to accept a plea of guilty, both the Prosecution and Defence must come to an agreement on the facts. If parties cannot agree about the facts of the offence, the matter will need to be listed for a contested sentence.

Matters are commonly referred to as pleas in the Magistrates Courts and sentences in the higher courts (District or Supreme Courts) but mean the same thing.

Contested Sentence

This is a sentence or plea of guilty where the defendant accepts responsibility for the overall offence but does not accept the facts of the offending. For example you may accept you assaulted someone by hitting them once but not accept you hit them five times.

In a contested sentence, relevant witnesses, such as the complainant (victim), defendant or other witnesses may be called to give evidence and be cross-examined regarding the facts in dispute.

The Presiding Judge or Magistrate will then make a decision about which version of events they prefer. The sentence or plea will then continue in the usual manner.

It is important to note, that if the Presiding Judge or Magistrate makes a ruling against the defendant, the defendant may lose the benefit of their plea of guilty as they have required witnesses to give evidence.

Appeal

There is not right to appeal in Queensland. You may apply to a higher court for leave to appeal in certain circumstances.

There are two common types of appeal in Queensland.

  1. Appeal against sentence – the sentence imposed was manifestly too harsh.
  2. Appeal against conviction – where a mistake was made that resulted in a conviction.

An appeal hearing in a higher court begins when you the lodge a notice of appeal against a lower court decision.

You have 28 days from your conviction or sentence date to appeal.