Criminal Trial Processes
The process of a criminal trial contains a variety of systems, procedures and roles, all of which are designed to maintain a standard of justice in the courtroom and the fundamental human rights contained within the rule of law. Use the pages listed below to learn more about how they function.
While each Australian state’s systems differ slightly, what is common throughout Australia is the tiered court system, with the High Court of Australia having final jurisdiction, or ‘the last say’.
The Adversary System
The key aim of the adversary system is to ensure fairness between both the Defence and the Prosecution throughout the trial process, achieved through equal representation and an impartial judiciary.
People in Court
In most court proceedings, there are many people present to observe or assist in the trial, though only the central roles of the Defence, Prosecution and Judiciary may influence its outcome.
Pleas and Charges
A charge is usually lain upon a person following an arrest, and is then disputed in a courtroom if a trial takes place. When charged with a criminal offence, the accused is given an opportunity to plead guilty or not guilty.
Access to Justice
It is a core principle of the rule of law that justice must be accessible to all. The provision of justice through a functioning, adequately resourced legal system is a core responsibility of the government.
Burden and Standard of Proof
The burden of proof, also known as the onus of proof, refers to the duty of the prosecution to successfully prove the accused’s guilt in order to produce a guilty verdict beyond a reasonable doubt.
Use of Evidence
After a decision is made to commence criminal proceedings in court, strict legal rules apply to the conduct of criminal trials. Importantly, only admissible evidence is allowed.
Defences Against Criminal Charges
There are a number of defences against criminal charges that the Defence can use to absolve the accused of criminal liability, to varying extents.
The Role of Juries
Juries are an accepted norm in the Australian justice system. They are also an integral part of the criminal trial process and the their role is crucial to reaching a fair and reasonable outcome.