If there is enough evidence found during the committal hearing, the accused will be committed to stand trial before a jury. This will happen in the Supreme Court closest to the area of the offence.
A state-appointed Prosecutor will try the case in front of the Judge, and a jury of 12. The jury must reach a unanimous verdict, and because of this, jury deliberations can go for hours and in some cases, days. Families may request a meeting with the Prosecutor prior to trial and where they can discuss their fears, questions, and hand over a copy of family members’ Victim Impact Statements.
Family members are welcome to be party to this by sitting in the gallery at the back of the court. Again, please consider having a QHVSG (or family) court supporter with you during this time to help make the process a little easier.
On conclusion of the trial, the judge will sum up the case, the jury will go out to deliberate on the verdict, which will be either “guilty”, “not guilty”, or a combination of both if there is more than one charge. If the accused has been found guilty, the case will be listed for sentencing.
A summary of things to remember if you are called to be a witness:
- Tell the truth
- Read your statement before you give advice
- Do not discuss your version of the facts with other witnesses
- If you do not understand a question, say so
- Do not give evasive answers
- Only answer the question asked of you
- Do not guess. If you do not remember or do not know the answer, then say so
- If your memory of something is vague, say so
- Do not worry about tactics
- Do not participate in courtroom theatrics
- Keep in regular contact with the police personnel, and/or the investigating officer in charge of your case. If you are preparing for the actual trial, let the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and/or the Victim Support Service know this information.
- If you wish to view the courtroom before you attend the legal hearing, this should be available to you. You can check with the above agencies or QHVSG can help arrange for you to tour the courts
- Try to make arrangements for things that you know will be necessary ahead of time
- Arrange tentative plans for court. Remember to think about parking.
- Arrange accommodation for court days if necessary, and arrange court clothing for a few days
- Prepare a Court Kit that includes:
- Box of tissues
- Jumpers (the courts tend to be cold)
- Small back pillow
- A packet of mints or quiet lollies
- Small face cloth
- Pen & paper (for any questions)
- Comfortable shoes & clothing
- Coins for parking/phone calls
- A well charged mobile phone
- City map with route marked
- Headache tablets and/or other medication
- Small bottle of water
- All necessary phone numbers
- Victims Impact Statement
- Copy of your Witness Statement
There are basic rules that govern the criminal justice system. Some you have heard of, some you may have not. Here is a summary of the rules that relate to a murder/manslaughter trial
- Serious charges must be decided by the verdict of a jury
- Defendants are presumed to be innocent unless and until their guilt is proved
- Defendants are entitled to know what evidence will be used against them at their trial
- The Prosecution must prove the defendant’s guilt. The defendant does not have to prove their innocence
- Guilt must be proved beyond reasonable doubt
- The jury’s verdict must be unanimous
- A verdict of not guilty is final and cannot be appealed against
- An involuntary confession cannot be used in evidence
- Improperly obtained evidence can be excluded to ensure a fair trial
- The defendant’s prior criminal convictions will not normally be revealed to the jury, although the judge may consider this in sentencing
- The defendant has the right to cross-examine prosecution witnesses