How the courts process works

Summary offences in the Magistrates Court of Victoria

Most cases such as driving or assault offences are heard in the Magistrates Court. The case is decided by a single magistrate and Victoria Police prosecute the matter.

 1. Mention hearing 

The first hearing is called a mention. In essence the Court is simply asking one question – how will this matter proceed?

If the matter is straight forward you may wish to plead guilty or you may disagree with the charges and the matter will then progress to the next hearing.

Prior to a Mention hearing we will meet with you and discuss your case. Once we have all the information we need we will then speak with the Police Prosecution prior to the hearing to see if we can resolve the case. This may include having the charges withdrawn.

Prior to talking with Police we undertake a detailed examination of the evidence and law to ensure we obtain the best outcome possible. 

2. Contest Mention:

At the contest mention hearing you’re able to have the facts, issue & evidenece of your case heard in front of a Magistrate.

The Police must provide us with all documents, photos / video & other evidence they would rely on at a contested hearing prior to the contest mention.

Once the Magistrate has heard the issues in your case & submission about the evidence are made by us, the Magistrate will express a view about prospect of Police obtaining a conviction against you.

At this point, you are able to seek a sentence indication. This means the Magistrate will hear some basic information from your lawyer about you & indicate what punishment you will recieve.

Alternatively, the Magistrate may advise the Police their case is weak. We would then have a discussion with the Police about withdrawing the charges against you. 

3. Contested Hearing

A contested hearing is where all of the evidence in your case is presented to the Court. Any witnesses in your case will also be called to give evidence. We present your case to a Magistrate and make submissions on the law as it relates to your charges. 

The Police must prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt in order to secure a conviction. This is a high standard to meet. 

Even if you are convicted in circemstances where we feel it was unjust – you have the right to Appeal the decision.

Indictable offences start in the Magistrates Court of Victoria

Indictable offences are those more serious offences that are either heard in the County Court or Supreme Court. These can include serious fraud offences, drug trafficking, sexual & homicide offences.


  1. Filing Hearing: This is a procedural hearing where the Court sets a time when the evidence must provided to you and sets the date for the committal mention.
  2. Committal Mention: This is a pre-trial hearing where the Magistrate reviews the evidence and discusses the issues in dispute. The accused may plead guilty or not guilty at this stage. Prior to this hearing we prepare a case direction notice which sets out which witnesses we wish to call to give evidence and any other issues with outstanding evidence we require.
  3. Ground Rules Hearing: Some sexual offences require a ground-rules hearing to set rules for the cross-examination of the person who made the complaint. This is a procedural hearing which can occur on the same day as the Committal.
  4. Committal Hearing: If the accused pleads not guilty, a committal hearing is held. Witnesses may be cross-examined, and the Magistrate decides if there’s enough evidence for the case to proceed to trial in the County or Supreme Court.
  5. Hand-Up Brief: If the accused consents, the evidence can be submitted in written form instead of a full committal hearing.

In the County / Supreme Court of Victoria

Following the process in the Magistrates Court – The next stages of the proceedings are as follows.


  1. Directions Hearing: This is a pre-trial conference where the Judge, prosecution, and defence discuss the issues that will arise during the trial. Timelines and the need for expert witnesses are often discussed here.
  2. Plea Hearing: If the accused pleads guilty before the trial, a plea hearing is held to determine the appropriate sentence.
  3. Jury Selection: If the case goes to trial, a jury is selected from a pool of potential jurors.
  4. Opening Statements: Both the prosecution and defence present their opening statements to outline their cases.
  5. Presentation of Evidence: The prosecution presents its case first, followed by the defence. Witnesses are called and cross-examined during this phase.
  6. Closing Arguments: Both sides present their closing arguments, summarising the evidence and making a final plea to the jury.
  7. Jury Deliberation: The jury retires to consider the evidence and reach a verdict.
  8. Verdict: The jury returns to the courtroom to announce its verdict. If the accused is found guilty, a sentencing hearing is scheduled.
  9. Sentencing Hearing: The Judge considers all the evidence, including any mitigating or aggravating factors, and pronounces the sentence.
  10. Appeal: Either party may appeal the verdict or sentence, but this would typically move the case to a higher court, such as the Supreme Court of Victoria.

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