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Committal process
Serious criminal cases start in the Local Court with committal proceedings. The ODPP usually take over prosecuting committal proceedings after the Police provide the ODPP with a brief of evidence.
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The ODPP takes over the prosecution of serious crimes from the police. We prosecute some matters in the Local Court but most will go to the District or Supreme Court, after what is called the ‘committal’ process in the Local Court.

Nearly all criminal cases start off in the Local Court before a magistrate.

If the crime is serious (an ‘indictable offence’), the ODPP takes over the prosecution from police. We also take over all child sexual assault matters.

Under NSW law, many serious criminal matters are transferred from the Local Court to the District Court and the most serious (such as murder) are transferred to the Supreme Court. Other serious crimes (for example, armed robbery, or dangerous driving causing death) can be prosecuted in either the Local Court or the District Court.

Local Court prosecutions are less complex than those in the higher courts and typically take less time. This means less stress and uncertainty for victims and other witnesses and less demand on the court system. However, while the District and Supreme Courts can impose the maximum penalties available for crimes, there is a cap on the sentences the Local Court can give. (For example, the maximum prison term the Local Court can impose for a single offence is two years, and for multiple offences, five years.)

For these reasons, the ODPP prosecutes crimes that are likely to result in a higher penalty in the District or Supreme Court and we prosecute crimes in the Local Court if the likely penalty is within the range it can impose. 

Police prosecute less serious crimes (‘summary offences’) themselves, in the Local Court.

Before a serious criminal matter is transferred to a higher court, it goes through what is called the ‘committal’ process in the Local Court.

During this stage, police send us, and the accused, the evidence they gathered in their investigation, called a ‘brief’. A brief can include witness statements, the charges laid, bail documents, results of forensic pathology tests (for example, blood and hair samples), results of medical examinations, photographs of the crime scene, and other relevant material.

The matter is then adjourned so a senior ODPP prosecutor can examine the evidence to make sure it supports the charges laid. Sometimes the ODPP will ask the police to lay different, or extra, charges. For example, we might decide there is not enough evidence to support the police charge of inflicting grievous bodily harm, but that the evidence supports a charge of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

The ODPP then has to ‘certify’, or tell the court, which charges we will go ahead with. If the charges were laid on or after 30 April 2018, this will be the first time we appear in court in the matter, instead of the police.