Lawyers can sometimes use legal terminology with the quick ease of familiarity. But a good criminal lawyer will give you a clear explanation of each step in the criminal justice process, so that you are well informed about all the possibilities of how your case may unfold, and so that you can make the important decisions about how you wish to proceed. If you have been charged with offences to be heard in the Magistrates' Court – mention, further mention, summary case conference, contest mention and contested hearing – are steps in the Magistrates' Court process that should be clearly explained to you by your lawyer, so that you can have confidence in the strategy and progress of your matter.
What is a Mention?
If you are charged with offences to be heard in the Magistrates' Court, when police file your charges, the Court will list your matter for mention.
A mention simply means that your case is mentioned in Court, and that your charges are not yet formally listed for a plea of guilty or a plea of not guilty.
The first date that your matter is listed at Court is called the first mention.
Prior to the first mention, police should provide your lawyer with:
- A copy of the preliminary brief; or
- A copy of the full brief; or
- If neither a preliminary brief nor a full brief has been prepared, a copy of the charge-sheet, a statement of the alleged facts on which the charges are based, and a copy of your prior convictions, if you have any.
These documents are vital for your lawyer to be able to provide you with advice about the charges against you, and to make a plan about how you wish to proceed at the mention.
What Happens at a Mention?
While of course it is important to have a strategy in place with your lawyer prior to the mention date, in order to obtain the best possible outcome, an experienced criminal lawyer will suggest that you keep an open mind about how your matter will proceed on the day.
There are numerous possible outcomes of a mention at Court.
For example, if you are pleading guilty:
- but you need time to engage a lawyer or to obtain medical materials and letters of support to present to the Court, your matter can be adjourned for a plea of guilty on another date;
- it is not a complex matter, and you are well prepared to proceed with a plea of guilty, your matter can proceed and finalise on the mention date. You receive your penalty and you do not need to go to Court again;
- but your matter is more serious or complex, the Court may require further time to consider your penalty, or order that you be assessed for suitability for a Community Corrections Order. In that case, you would be required to attend Court again on another date for further plea and sentence.
If you agree with some of the charges, but dispute others:
- or you dispute aspects of the police summary, your lawyer can conduct negotiations called summary case conference discussions with police prior to, or at the mention of your matter at Court. If those discussions are able to resolve the issues in dispute, and you are well prepared to proceed, the matter can finalise with a plea of guilty on the mention date;
- and negotiations do not resolve the issues in dispute, the matter can be adjourned for further mention in order to allow an opportunity for further negotiations, or for police to provide additional requested evidence;
- negotiations do not resolve the issues in dispute and there are no outstanding documents that might help resolve the issues in dispute, the case can be adjourned for contest mention.
If you completely disagree with the charges:
- and police will not withdraw the charges against you, the matter will be adjourned for contest mention, which is the next stage in the Magistrates' Court process toward your plea of not guilty at a contested hearing.
The above outcomes are not exhaustive, and maintaining a flexible approach may assist you to manage your expectations of how your matter may evolve at Court.
What is a Further Mention?
A further mention is the second or subsequent listing of your charges at Court. At a further mention, the Court will expect the matter to have progressed in some way, either towards a resolution, clarification of the issues in dispute, or notification that all requested documents have been produced by police.
As with a first mention, at a further mention your case can finalise as a plea of guilty, be adjourned and booked in for a plea of guilty, or be adjourned for contest mention.
Attending Court for a Mention or Further Mention
If you are on summons and it is the first mention of your matter, you may need further time to properly prepare your case. Your lawyer can request an administrative adjournment of the matter without your attendance at Court. Your case will be adjourned and listed for further mention on a subsequent Court date.
If your matter is listed for further mention, you must expect that you will be required to attend Court, even if you are on summons.
If you are on bail, you must always attend Court when your matter is listed. If you do not appear at Court, you will be charged with the further offence of Fail to Answer Bail and a warrant will be issued for your arrest.
Prior to your mention or further mention, an experienced criminal lawyer will clearly explain to you the law and the Court process, provide you with advice in relation to your options, assist you to prepare for Court, and advise you of the possible Court outcomes.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.