This article was written by Angela Cooney - National Practice Director – Sydney

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...

Criminal Trials


Criminal trials are held in the relevant state or territory’s District Court or the Supreme Court. A trial is held when the accused is pleading not guilty. This may be because they have a legal defence to the charge or because they are testing the prosecution case. During a trial, the prosecution will adduce evidence and both defence and prosecution will make submission about the strength of that evidence. The defence may also call evidence, but this does not always occur. At the end of the trial, a verdict will be delivered.

Trials are usually decided by a jury but occasionally a trial will be heard by a Judge alone.

What is the Role of the Prosecution?

The role of the Prosecution is to present the case against the accused to the court. Their role is not to secure a conviction or to convince the court that the defendant should be found guilty. It is their primary duty to present all relevant evidence in the case and assist the court to achieve justice according to the law and principles of fairness.

A prosecutor does not represent a private interest or a particular person (such as the victim), but appears on behalf of the state in order to achieve what is in the public interest. In order for the accused to be found guilty the court must be satisfied that the prosecution has proved every element of the offence beyond a reasonable doubt.

What is the Role of the Defendant?

The defendant has no obligation to prove any fact or issue that is in dispute. They also do not have the obligation to call any evidence. This is because the burden of proof rests solely on the prosecution. The defendant can call evidence in their defence if they choose to do so.

In criminal proceedings, the defendant is present for all of the proceedings. If the defendant chooses to give evidence in the trial, they will give evidence after the prosecution has closed its case. Any other defence witnesses will usually give evidence after the defendant.

After all witnesses have given evidence, there will be closing addresses, the Judge will give directions to the jury and sum up the case, and then the jury will retire to consider its verdict.

What is the Role of a Judge in a Criminal Trial?

Trials can either be conducted with a jury or Judge alone.  The below information relates to trial by jury.

The Judge is the trier of the law. They make decisions about the law, and legal issues, but in a jury trial, the Judge does not determine anything factual. That is the role of the jury.

The Judge will determine any preliminary legal issues, which may include what evidence is and is not admitted. The Judge will also determine objections made by the defence or prosecution throughout the trial. Finally, the Judge will summarise the evidence and will give the jury directions as to how to apply the law.

If the accused is found guilty, the Judge will decide on the appropriate sentence and make sentencing orders. If the accused is found not guilty, the Judge will dismiss the charges.

What is the Role of a Jury in a Criminal Trial?

The jury is the sole trier of the facts. This means that, after listening to all of the evidence in the case, the jury will decide what it can be satisfied happened, whether the prosecution has proved each of the essential facts and elements of the offence and whether the defendant ought to be found guilty or not guilty.

If you require any information on criminal trials or any other legal matter call us on 1300 038 223 or send us an email.

WHERE TO NEXT?

If you suspect that you may be under investigation, or if you have been charged with an offence, it is vital to get competent legal advice as early as possible. Our lawyers are highly specialised in criminal law and will be able to guide you through the process while dealing with the various authorities related to your matter.

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