It is useful to have an understanding of the court process

In Victoria, the State acts on behalf of the community to prosecute people who commit serious crimes.

These serious crimes, which are referred to as ‘indictable’ crimes are prosecuted by the Office of Public Prosecutions (OPP) on behalf of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

For matters that proceed through the legal system, the main stages of the court process are:

  • investigation
  • committal
  • case conferences (held at various stages throughout the process)
  • trial
  • plea hearing
  • sentence
  • appeal.

A different process applies to matters where the accused person is prosecuted under the Crimes (Mental Impairment and Unfitness to be Tried) Act 1997. This process is explained further on the Prosecuting Mental Impairment cases page.

Having an understanding of the court process will assist you to prepare for your involvement in that process.

The prosecution process flowchart (downloadable from the 'More Information' box) details the different stages of the court process.

Purpose

Explains

  • Giving evidence
  • How you should be treated by the police
  • The stages of the court process
  • What to do when you arrive at court
  • Prosecutions in Regional Areas
  • Prosecuting Mental Impairment cases
  • Prosecuting authorities and victims’ services

Going to court can be challenging for victims and witnesses. Someone from the prosecution, usually the police informant, will tell you about the date and time of the various court hearings.

If you are required to go to court to give evidence, you should contact the police informant to make arrangements about where and when to meet.

This section has information about the various stages of the court process.

Victoria Police is responsible for investigating crime. If you have any questions about the investigation process, you should contact the police informant.

Conferences are a good opportunity to ask questions of the prosecution team and find out more about what will happen during the court process.

At the committal hearing a magistrate will decide if there is enough evidence for the matter to be listed for trial.

The trial is the main court hearing and takes place before a judge and jury.

The plea hearing is an opportunity for both the prosecution and defence to present information that they want the judge to take into account when deciding on the sentence.

The judge is responsible for sentencing the offender for the crime. There are a number of factors the judge is required to take into account in sentencing, including the impact of the crime on the victim/s.

An appeal is not a re-trial. An appeal is a complex legal hearing to determine whether the law has been properly applied at the trial.

Courts generally hear matters in the area where the crime occurred. You can contact the Office of Public Prosecutions or Witness Assistance Service for information about when the court is hearing matters in your region.

The Office of Public Prosecutions has produced a guide called Prosecuting Mental Impairment Matters that explains the court process where mentally ill or cognitively impaired people are prosecuted for serious crimes.

Waiting for the verdict can be a difficult and nervous time. If you want to be present for the verdict you can ask the police informant, OPP solicitor or WAS worker to let you know when it will be read out.

Being in court and giving evidence may be challenging for you. The Witness Assistance Service can arrange support for you while you are giving evidence.