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Types of offences

Summary offences

A summary offence is an offence that can be heard by a magistrate sitting alone, rather than a judge and jury. A summary offence can also be heard in the absence of the defendant. Summary offences are usually considered to be less serious offences. Examples include:

  • road traffic offences (for example, careless driving, drink driving and unlicensed driving)
  • minor assaults
  • property damage
  • offensive behaviour.

Indictable offences

Indictable offences are more serious offences that cannot be heard in the absence of the defendant (the person accused of the crime). These offences are usually heard in the Magistrates' court for a committal hearing. The offence may then be committed for trial before a judge in a higher court such as the County court or Supreme court.

Types of indictable offences include:

  • aggravated burglary
  • indecent assault
  • drug trafficking offences
  • murder
  • manslaughter.

Some indictable offences may be heard in the Magistrates' court where the court believes it is appropriate for the offence to be dealt with by a magistrate.

Types of hearings

The court you go to and the hearings you have to go to are different depending on the type of crime. Ask the police investigator or see Types of courts for more information.