Rule 8 and Rule 26 of the Magistrates Court Criminal Rules set out what is meant to happen before a matter is listed for trial. These should be complied with as much as possible before the pre-trial conference.

The pre-trial conference will usually take between 5 and 20 minutes.

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.

Prior to the pre-trial conference you should make contact with the prosecution unit to discuss the issues fully and frankly.  Their contact details should be on the court documents that were given to you.

Examples of the sort of thing that should be discussed with the prosecution before the pre-trial conference date include:

  • any evidence of alibi (you could not have committed the offence because you were somewhere else at the time)
  • any documents which may assist your defence
  • tell them your version of the events, including what witnesses you have and what you think that they will say

The Magistrate will need the co-operation of both parties to attempt to resolve your matter.

Attendance at the pre-trial conference is compulsory.  If you do not attend either personally or by a solicitor, you may be found guilty and a penalty imposed in your absence.

If you are on Bail you must attend or a warrant may be issued for your arrest.

Your witnesses however do not need to attend the pre-trial conference.