Major indictable matters start in the Magistrates Court.
The ODPP is not involved in the court process at the pre-committal stage. Police prosecutors represent the prosecution.
At the first court appearance, the police prosecutor will tell the court how much time the investigating police will need to continue their investigation and provide the preliminary evidence (called a preliminary brief) to the ODPP.
The court will adjourn the matter to allow this to happen. This can be for a number of months.
If the accused is not already on bail, they might apply for bail at this hearing.
Before the next hearing, the police will send the preliminary brief to the ODPP and to the accused’s lawyer. A lawyer in the ODPP will consider the evidence in the preliminary brief to make sure there is enough to support the charges.
At this point, a few things can happen.
If the ODPP lawyer thinks there is enough evidence, they will confirm the charges should proceed. This is called a charge determination.
The ODPP will then take over the prosecution and an ODPP lawyer will appear at the next hearing.
Sometimes, after considering the evidence in the preliminary brief, the ODPP lawyer will recommend that different charges should go ahead.
If the different charges still include at least one major indictable charge, the ODPP will take over the prosecution.
If the ODPP recommends that only minor indictable or summary charges go ahead, the police will keep handling the prosecution until it is finished.
If the ODPP lawyer thinks there is not enough evidence in the preliminary brief to support any charges, they will return it to the police.
If the police think they can get more evidence to support the charge, they will keep investigating it, and send it back to the ODPP to reconsider later. A police prosecutor will attend the next court hearing and ask the court to adjourn the matter so this can occur.
If the police think they won’t be able to get any more evidence to support the charges, the charges will be withdrawn.