The Andrews Labor Government will review Victoria’s committal system to help reduce victims’ trauma, ensure rights to a fair trial and improve the efficiency of the criminal justice system.
Attorney-General Martin Pakula today asked the Victorian Law Reform Commission to review and report on the state’s committal system.
In Victoria, committal proceedings are held before a magistrate to determine whether, in the case of more serious criminal offences, there is sufficient evidence to support a conviction.
In recent years, a number of legislative and procedural reforms have sought to improve the committal process. In addition, the Government has consulted on an early case management model and has received a proposal for reform from the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Under the terms of reference, the Commission will consider best practices for supporting victims and examine:
- whether Victoria should maintain, abolish, replace or reform the current committal system
- opportunities for reform that enable early identification of cases that can be determined summarily, encourage appropriate early guilty pleas, facilitate efficient use of court time and encourage parties’ proper preparation for trial
- ways of improving early disclosure processes in criminal prosecutions brought in the indictable stream
- if, when and in what circumstances witnesses should be examined prior to trial, including consideration of ways to minimise the need for victims and other vulnerable witnesses to give evidence multiple times
- whether a magistrate should determine if there is sufficient evidence to commit an accused to stand trial and, if so, what test to apply, having regard to the Director of Public Prosecutions’ power to directly indict, and
- the impacts of any recommended changes on the all parts of the criminal justice system, and what will be needed to ensure the successful implementation and operation of those changes, including resource implications.
The Commission will consult widely in undertaking its review, including with courts, government stakeholders, the legal profession and victims’ groups.
The review will report back to government in March 2020.
A copy of the full terms of reference is available at lawreform.vic.gov.au
Quotes attributable to Attorney-General Martin Pakula
“The Government has asked the Victorian Law Reform Commission to consider ways to reform committal proceedings to help reduce the trauma experienced by victims and witnesses.”
“This major review will make recommendations about Victoria’s committal system to improve efficiency, whilst still ensuring the right to a fair trial.”