Under criminal law, indictable offences include criminal offences that can attract serious penalties including life imprisonment or many years imprisonment. These can be referred to a supreme or district court or magistrates court or other higher court. After this the case proceeds to a trial hearing or to a trial before a judge and jury where a defendant may plead guilty.

Criminal charges are broadly categorised as indictable offence or summary offences. Summary charges include relatively petty charges such as disorderly behaviour or minor offences related to damage to property.

On the other hand, more serious criminal offences are indictable offences in NSW. The Supreme Court or District Court deals with more serious offences. Whereas the Local Court hears matters that are to do with summary offences.

Generally, when a person is charged with any offence, they must be present at the committal hearing that is heard in Magistrates Court. At this hearing, it is decided if the case will remain in the Magistrates Court or proceed to the Supreme Court or other higher court.

In NSW, the Criminal Procedure Act (1986) provides a definition of serious indictable offences. Section 3 of this Act states that an indictable offence is an offence that may be prosecuted on indictment. Indictment refers to a formal charge or accusation of a crime.

According to NSW legislation, an offence can be strictly indictable, an indictable offence heard summarily or a summary offence.

When the matter goes to a high court, there is a jury of twelve people who will hear the facts of the case and determine whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty beyond reasonable doubt.

This determination is based on the majority verdict. It is also possible for only a Judge (without jurors) to preside over the matter. However, this does not happen in Victoria, Tasmania and Northern Territory.

Table 1 Offences, Table 2 Offences and Strictly Indictable Offences

What are some types of other indictable offences? According to Section 3 of the Criminal Procedure Act (1986), these can include:

  1. stealing;
  2. fraud;
  3. murder;
  4. armed robbery;
  5. assault; and
  6. burglary.

Moreover, these offences are further classified into Table 1 and Table 2 offences. Given below is a list of offences that fall under Table 1:

  1. aggravated indecent assault;
  2. break and enter offences under $5,000
  3. dangerous driving where death does not result
  4. stealing or receiving stolen goods over $5,000
  5. steal motor vehicle
  6. public order offences including riot
  7. escape and other offences
  8. drug offences for amounts over a small amount but less than a large or commercial quantity
  9. reckless wounding or inflicting serious injury

On the other hand, Table 2 offences include less serious offences or minor indictable offences that the Local Court hears. Section 268 of the Criminal Procedures Act (1986) states the maximum penalty for Table 2 offences. These can include:

  1. stealing or receiving stolen goods under $5,000
  2. malicious damage under $5,000
  3. taking and/or driving motor vehicle without the consent of the owner
  4. possession of a tool that is used for purpose of breaking into a building
  5. assault, indecent assault that cause actual grievous bodily harm

Strictly indictable offences include more serious crimes such as murder, serious drug offences, serious sexual offences and manslaughter. Other strictly indictable offences include:

  • discharge firearm with intent
  • conspiracy to murder
  • use explosive substance with intent

Are There Limitation Periods?

To lay a charge on an indictable offence, there are no limitation periods. In other words, if evidence emerges even after many years of the offender committing the offence, he or she can still be faced with charges.

This means that, there is no statute of limitations for indictable offences in NSW. On the other hand, in NSW, summary offences have a statute of limitations or limitation period of up to 6 months.

Which Offences Are Dealt With No Indictment?

Summary offences are heard in the Magistrates Court. The Magistrates Court can try for summary offences. These are dealt with no indictment. When courts deal with matters "summarily", the advantage can be that the maximum penalty is lower.

The court also deals with no indictment cases in a more quick, and less formal manner. For summary offences, police prosecutor can prosecute the offender. He or she is then summoned and made to appear in the Magistrate Court. Summary proceedings are less complex than proceedings on indictment. They are also much shorter generally.

Different laws and legislation are applicable in different states. For instance, in Victoria the Crimes Act 1958 is the relevant legislation. Whereas in Queensland, the Criminal Code Act 1899 (see here) is the leading legislation.

Because each jurisdiction in Australia has different laws, regulations and conditions, it is necessary to understand which rules are applicable to your particular matter.

Therefore, it is important to get in touch with lawyers who specialise in criminal law in order to understand your obligations when dealing with any given matter.

Importance of Obtaining Legal Advice From Criminal Lawyers

At JB Solicitors, we have a team of criminal lawyers who have a wealth of experience in dealing with matters involving indictable offences. We have an award-winning team of solicitors.

Our team members understand the complexities of the law and we can help you resolve your legal issues in an efficient manner. We offer services in various areas of the law such as family law, criminal law, property law, immigration law, commercial law and employment law among others.

If you have any questions, you can visit our blog page for more information. If you wish to speak with a lawyer in relation to any enquiry, you can speak to our team of solicitors.

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.