The court process in a criminal case

The first hearing takes place to formally hear the defendant’s plea. The defendant can plead guilty – meaning they accept the charges laid against them – or not guilty. Where multiple charges have been laid, the defendant can plead guilty to some charges and not guilty to others.


If the defendant pleads GUILTY
The case will go straight to a sentencing hearing without a trial being held. At sentencing, the judge announces the defendant’s punishment. You can attend both hearings if you wish to.

If the defendant pleads NOT GUILTY

  • There is a first hearing to formally hear the not guilty plea.

  • The defendant or their lawyer and the prosecutor must then jointly file a case management memorandum. This tells the court all the details that relate to the case, and what the issues will be at the trial.

  • A case review is held within 30 days of the not guilty plea. This is to decide if there is a need for a full trial. A court registrar usually handles the case review, rather than a judge.

  • The registrar will then adjourn (postpone) the case until the trial date or, if it is to be a jury trial, until the jury trial callover is held.

  • A judge conducts the jury trial callover. This is held at least 40 days after the case was adjourned for the callover. It deals with any procedural issues and makes sure the case is ready to proceed to trial. The defendant’s lawyer and the prosecutor will have separately filed a trial callover memorandum to tell the court some key details, such as the number of witnesses that will be called and if any pre-trial applications will be made. You don’t usually need to attend the case review or jury trial callover. The prosecutor or court victim advisor will tell you if you do, or you can tell them if you want to attend.

  • The trial   A criminal trial can often be long, running for several weeks. If you've been called as a witness, you'll need to attend the trial to give your evidence. When the trial ends, the judge (for a judge-alone trial) or the jury (for a jury trial) must decide if the defendant is guilty or not guilty. If the jury cannot reach a decision, which is called a hung jury, another trial will need to be held.

  • The sentencing hearing   If the defendant is found guilty, they will need to appear at the sentencing hearing. The judge will consider any Victim Impact Statements, and formal reports on the victim and the sentences given in other similar cases.

You can attend the sentencing hearing if you would like to. Talk with your Support Worker about any financial assistance that you may be able to receive to travel to court.

If the defendant is found not guilty, they are free to leave the court.