If you plead not guilty, you are disagreeing that you committed the offence that you have been charged with or that you agree that you committed the offence, but you believe you have a valid defence. It is important to get legal advice to ensure that your defence is a valid one.

If you are pleading not guilty, your case will be set down for a pre-trial conference (PTC).

The purpose of a pre-trial conference is to:

  • find out what facts or legal issues are in dispute
  • fully explore the possibility of dealing with the charge other than by way of trial
  • enable the length of the trial to be estimated as accurately as possible
  • decide if any evidence can be proved by affidavit (ie, by using sworn written statements of witnesses as opposed to oral evidence given in court)
  • if a trial cannot be avoided, ensure that it ultimately runs as smoothly as possible.

If your case cannot be settled by the pre-trial conference or by subsequent negotiations with the prosecution, it will be set down for trial.

See pre-trial conference (PTC) for further information.

The Magistrates Court can hear, determine and sentence on charges for offences which are defined as summary offences or indictable offences. The definitions are contained in the Summary Procedure Act 1921.  While the definitions are complicated, these are generally offences which carry a maximum of five years imprisonment.

For serious offences where the penalty can exceed five years imprisonment, the Magistrates Court conducts a preliminary examination to determine if there is enough evidence to put the defendant on trial in a higher court. This preliminary examination is called a committal hearing. If the magistrate determines that there is enough evidence to sustain the charge, the defendant is committed to stand trial in either the District Court or the Supreme Court, depending on the seriousness of the charge.