Pleading Not Guilty
If you are pleading not guilty, your case may be set down for a pre-trial conference (PTC).What is a pre-trial conference PTC?
The Magistrates Court Rules require parties to proceedings 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.
Why has your matter been listed for a PTC?
To make sure that parties have complied with this rule and are ready for a trial date to be set, you are required to attend a PTC to find out:-
- Can the matter be sorted out without a trial; and
- Sort out what evidence will need to be given, whether some of the evidence can be agreed and other matters to make the progress of the trial easier; and
- If a trial is needed, find out how long the trial will take and set a date that is convenient to the parties and witnesses.
A PTC will usually take between 5 and 20 minutes.
What am I required to do or bring?
Prior to the PTC 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 PTC date so that the prosecution can consider it before the PTC:
- 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
You must attend the PTC. If you do not attend either personally or by a solicitor/lawyer 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 do not need to come to the 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 (i.e, by using sworn written statements of witnesses as opposed to oral evidence given in court), and
- if a trial cannot be avoided, ensure that it ultimately runs as smoothly as possible.
It is highly advisable to go to trial with legal representation.
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