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Summary vs Indictable vs Strictly Indictable Offences


Summary, Indictable and Strictly Indictable are terms that are used to classify different types of criminal offences. All charges will start in the Local Court, but, depending on whether the offence is Indictable or Strictly indictable, they may end up in the District Court, and sometimes even the Supreme Court.

Summary Offences

Summary Offences are ones that must be dealt with in a Local Court.

Summary offences generally are less serious offences and usually have a maximum penalty of less than two years imprisonment – but this is not always the case – for example, Common Assault is an Indictable Offence even though its maximum penalty is only 2 years imprisonment.

Some examples of summary offences include:

  • Custody of a knife in a public place;
  • Negligent driving;
  • Mid-range drink driving; and
  • Possess prohibited drugs.

Indictable Offences

Indictable Offences can be dealt with in the Local Court, the District Court, or the Supreme Court. This is an optional choice.

It is usually very rare for an accused person to choose to have their matter prosecuted in the District Court, as the maximum penalties people face in the District Court for most offences are higher than if they were dealt with in the Local Court (because the Local Court has a jurisdictional limit of only two years).

All types of Indictable Offences are listed in Table 1 and Table 2 of the Criminal Procedure Act 1987.

If the offence is a ‘Table 1’ offence, the prosecution or the accused person can elect to prosecute the matter in a higher court.

If the offence is a ‘Table 2’ offence, the prosecution can elect to prosecute the matter in a higher court.

Some examples of Indictable Offences include:

  • Common Assault;
  • Larceny;
  • Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm;
  • Destroy/Damage Property;
  • Indecent Assault.

Strictly Indictable Offences

Strictly Indictable Offences must be finalised, either by trial or sentence, in the District Court or the Supreme Court.

Generally speaking, Strictly Indictable offences are very serious. Some examples of Strictly Indictable offences are:

  • Supplying Drugs (over the Indictable quantity);
  • Dangerous Driving Occasioning Death;
  • Sexual Assault without consent;
  • Kidnapping;
  • Manufacturing prohibited drugs;
  • Armed Robbery; and
  • Money Laundering.

What about the Supreme Court?

Generally, any Indictable matters where an election to prosecute in higher court has been made, or Strictly Indictable matters, will be dealt with in the District Court, rather than the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court usually only deals with the following type of charges:

  • Murder;
  • Large Commercial Drug Supply/Importation;
  • Treachery;
  • Sabotage;
  • War Crimes;

any other offence for which the maximum penalty is life imprisonment and where either the Director of Public Prosecutions (Cth) or the Director of Public Prosecutions of NSW has formed the opinion that the imposition of a life sentence may be appropriate.

Image Credit – Roman Motizov © 123RF.com

Written by Angela Cooney on May 1, 2018

Angela is able to assist clients with all criminal offences such as assaults, drug charges, traffic matters, theft, break and enters, firearms, sexual offences and apprehended violence orders. Angela is an experienced Court advocate having appeared in the Local and District Court, the Court of Criminal Appeal as well as in Federal jurisdictions in a multitude of matters, including complex strictly indictable trials. View Angela's profile


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