On the day of the pre-trial or trial you must be prepared and have all of your supporting material available.

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.

Failure to attend

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.

Additional links

Magistrates Court Rules 1992 (Criminal)

The Magistrates Court Rules require parties to be ready to proceed to trial by the date of the hearing at which a trial date is set.  Once a trial date has been fixed it will not be postponed unless there are very good reasons

At a trial, it is the prosecutor’s job to prove the charge beyond a reasonable doubt. The prosecution will present its evidence, which may comprise of any number of witnesses, affidavits, exhibits, etc. You are allowed to ask questions of any of the prosecution’s witnesses. This is called cross-examination.  When the case for the prosecution is finished, it is your turn to present any evidence and witnesses you have. The prosecution is also allowed to cross-examine any of your witnesses.

When all the evidence has been presented, it is up to the magistrate to decide whether the charge has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Often, the magistrate will adjourn the case to consider all the evidence before making a judgment. When the magistrate has made a decision, it will be delivered in court. If the charge has been found proven, the magistrate may proceed to convict you and impose a penalty. As well as the usual cost penalties, you may also be ordered to pay the costs of the trial, namely witness fees. If the charge has not been found proven, the case will be dismissed and you may ask for the prosecution to be ordered to pay your costs.

The District Court has jurisdiction to try a charge of any offence except treason or murder. Trials are conducted before a judge sitting alone or with a jury. Almost all such matters have been referred to the District Court following a committal process in the Magistrates Court.