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Brief of Evidence (WA)

When a person is charged with criminal offences in Western Australia, they must decide whether to plead guilty and receive sentence or plead not guilty and proceed to trial or contested hearing. Before making this decision, the accused may wish to obtain the brief of evidence, which is a document the prosecution prepares that contains a copy of all the evidence that will be relied on if the matter is contested. The defence should review the brief of evidence carefully to get an idea of the strength of the case.

When is a brief of evidence provided?

The police sometimes provide an accused person with a brief of evidence at the time they are charged. Other times, they will require time to prepare the brief and serve it on the defence. The brief must always be served of the defence in enough time for the accused to confirm whether they are proceeding to contest the charges and to prepare their defence.

When a brief of evidence reveals a strong prosecution case, the accused may choose to change their plea to guilty. A person who pleads guilty is given a sentencing discount in recognition of the fact they are taking responsibility for their offending and saving the court the time and resources involved in running a contested hearing. This means that a person who pleads guilty to an offence will receive a slightly lower penalty than they would receive for the same offence if they were found guilty after a contested hearing.  

What Is In A Brief Of Evidence?

Once an accused has indicated an intention to plead not guilty, the defence is entitled to full and detailed particulars of the alleged offence/s from the prosecution. The prosecution must also give full and early disclosure of all the evidence that it intends to rely on and all things in its possession.

A brief of evidence typically contains the following:

  • Charge sheet;
  • Summary of alleged facts;
  • Witness statements, such as a statement by any alleged victims, statements by other civilians and statements by police who dealt with the accused;
  • Record of the police interview with the accused if one was conducted;

A brief of evidence may also include:

  • DNA evidence;
  • CCTV footage;
  • Child forensic interviews;
  • Expert evidence, such as a statement from a doctor or psychologist;
  • Records of telephone intercepts;
  • Forensics reports, such as forensic analysis of a substance alleged to be a prohibited drug.

Committal Proceedings

If a matter is a serious indictable matter, such as murder or manslaughter, it must proceed through a committal proceeding before being committed to the Western Australian District Court or Supreme Court to be finalised. 

The evidence adduced by the prosecution at the committal stage of proceedings must be sufficient that it could support a finding of guilt. If the evidence adduced at committal is not sufficient to support a finding of guilt, the matter will be dismissed.

Whether a person is facing serious indictable charges or summary offences, it is crucial that the defence conducts a proper examination of all the evidence. The defence should consider the nature and seriousness of the alleged offending and the strength and significance of the evidence that the prosecution intends to rely on before the accused person enters a plea.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

Fernanda Dahlstrom

This article was written by Fernanda Dahlstrom

Fernanda Dahlstrom has a Bachelor of Laws, a Bachelor of Arts and a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice. She has also completed a Master’s in Writing and Literature. Fernanda practised law for eight years, working in criminal defence, child protection and domestic violence law in the Northern Territory and in family law in Queensland.

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