Under criminal law, indictable offences include criminal offences that can attract serious penalties, including life imprisonment or many years imprisonment. These can be referred to the:
- supreme or district court
- magistrates court
- other higher courts.
After this, the case proceeds to a trial hearing or to a trial before a judge and jury, where a defendant may plead guilty.
Furthermore, criminal charges are broadly categorised as indictable offence or summary offences. Summary charges include relatively petty charges such as disorderly behaviour or minor offences related to damage to property.
On the other hand, more serious criminal offences are indictable offences in NSW. The Supreme Court or District Court deals with more serious offences. Whereas, the Local Court hears matters that are to do with summary offences.
Generally, when a person is charged with any offence, they must be present at the committal hearing that is heard in Magistrates Court. At this hearing, it is decided if the case will remain in the Magistrates Court or proceed to the Supreme Court or other higher court.
Indictable Offence Meaning Under the Criminal Procedure Act
In NSW, the Criminal Procedure Act (1986) provides a definition of serious indictable offences. Section 3 of this Act states that an indictable offence is an offence that may be prosecuted on indictment. Indictment refers to a formal charge or accusation of a crime.
According to NSW legislation, an offence can be strictly indictable, an indictable offence heard summarily, or a summary offence.
When the matter goes to a high court, a jury of twelve will hear the facts of the case and determine whether the defendant is guilty or not beyond reasonable doubt.
More specifically, the determination is based on the majority verdict. It is also possible for only a Judge (without jurors) to preside over the matter. However, this does not happen in Victoria, Tasmania, and Northern Territory.
Types of Indictable Offences
What are some types of other indictable offences? According to Section 3 of the Criminal Procedure Act (1986), these can include:
Table 1 Offences, Table 2 Offences, and Strictly Indictable Offences
These offences are further classified into Table 1 and Table 2 offences. Given below is a list of offences that fall under Table 1:
- aggravated indecent assault;
- break and enter offences under $5,000
- dangerous driving where death does not result
- stealing or receiving stolen goods over $5,000
- steal motor vehicle
- public order offences including riot
- escape and other offences
- drug offences for amounts over a small amount but less than a large or commercial quantity
- reckless wounding or inflicting serious injury
On the other hand, Table 2 offences include less serious offences or minor indictable offences that the Local Court hears. Section 268 of the Criminal Procedures Act (1986) states the maximum penalty for Table 2 offences. These can include:
- stealing or receiving stolen goods under $5,000
- malicious damage under $5,000
- taking and/or driving motor vehicle without the consent of the owner
- possession of a tool that is used for the purpose of breaking into a building
- assault, indecent assault that causes actual grievous bodily harm
Strictly indictable offences include more serious crimes such as murder, serious drug offences, serious sexual offences, and manslaughter. Other strictly indictable offences include:
- discharge firearm with intent
- conspiracy to murder
- use of explosive substance with intent
Indictable Offences: Are There Limitation Periods?
To lay a charge on an indictable offence, there are no limitation periods. In other words, if evidence emerges after many years of the offender committing the offence, he or she can still face charges.
This means there is no statute of limitations for indictable offences in NSW. On the other hand, in NSW, summary offences have a statute of limitations or limitation period of up to 6 months.
Which Offences Are Dealt With No Indictment?
The Magistrates Court hears summary offences. The Magistrates Court has jurisdiction over summary offenses and handles them without indictment. When courts deal with matters “summarily,” the advantage can be that the maximum penalty is lower.
The court also deals with no-indictment cases in a quicker and less formal manner. For summary offences, police prosecutor can prosecute the offender. He or she is summoned and made to appear in the Magistrate Court.
Summary proceedings are less complex than proceedings on indictment. They are also much shorter generally.
Indictable Offences: Related Legislations
Different laws and legislation are applicable in different states. For instance, the Crimes Act 1958 is the relevant legislation in Victoria. Whereas in Queensland, the Criminal Code Act 1899 (see here) is the leading legislation.
Because each jurisdiction in Australia has different laws, regulations, and conditions, it is necessary to understand which rules are applicable to your particular matter.
Therefore, it is important to get in touch with lawyers who specialise in criminal law in order to understand your obligations when dealing with any given matter.
Importance of Obtaining Legal Advice From Criminal Lawyers
At JB Solicitors, we have a team of criminal lawyers who have a wealth of experience in dealing with matters involving indictable offences. We have an award-winning team of solicitors.
Our team members understand the complexities of the law, and we can help you resolve your legal issues in an efficient manner. We offer services in various areas of law, such as family law, criminal law, property law, immigration law, commercial law, and employment law.
You can visit our blog page for more information if you have any questions. If you wish to speak with a lawyer in relation to any enquiry, you can speak to our team of solicitors.
For more information, do not hesitate to contact our team of experienced lawyers, regardless of whether you are based in NSW or other states like the Australian Capital Territory.
Contact us today.