How does the court process work? What does the court room look like?
Who will be present in the Magistrates Court? What happens at a Committal Hearing in the Magistrates Court? 
 (From http://www.justice.qld.gov.au)

How does the court process work?

The court process for rape and sexual assaults usually involves two separate court jurisdictions, the Magistrates Court and the District Court.  All criminal matters begin in a Magistrates Court.

What does the court room look like?

Who will be present in the Magistrates Court?

The people listed below will be present in the Magistrates Court. (See Diagram)

Magistrate

The magistrate determines if there is enough evidence to “commit” the case for trial to the District Court.  The magistrate is addressed as ‘Your Honour’.

Defendant

The defendant is the offender, the person accused of committing the offence. If the defendant is in custody they will sit in the dock next to a correctional services officer.  If on bail the defendant will sit beside the defence lawyer.

Depositions clerk

The depositions clerk calls defendants when the magistrate is ready, records proceedings and calls each witness to give evidence.

Prosecutor

The prosecutor presents the case against the defendant.  The prosecutor may be a police officer or a lawyer from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Defence lawyer

A lawyer represents the defendant.  The defence lawyer may be a duty lawyer who is supplied by Legal Aid Queensland or a lawyer appointed by the defendant.

Witnesses

Witnesses are people who the prosecution or defence call to give evidence to present their case.  Both the prosecutor and the defence lawyer will ask the witness questions.  You are a witness.  You may be called to give evidence.

The public

The public and media can sit in the public gallery to watch, unless the magistrate orders a closed court.  However provisions of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 1978 prohibit the publishing of any information that can lead to the identity of the sexual assault complainant.  The prosecutor can apply to the court to have the court closed to the public.  Again, it is up to the Magistrate to order the court closed. 

What happens at a Committal Hearing in the Magistrates Court?

The magistrate's role is to decide if there is sufficient evidence on which a jury could convict to commit the defendant to trial in the District Court.

  • The prosecutor will present the case against the defendant and call witnesses to obtain their evidence
  • The defence lawyer or defendant may cross-examine these witnesses
  • The magistrate may invite submissions on the sufficiency of the evidence presented
  • After hearing all the evidence the magistrate will decide if there is sufficient evidence to commit the defendant to trial in the District Court
  • If there is insufficient evidence the magistrate will dismiss the case and the matter will proceed no further.The original complaint that you made to police is now finalised.  The defendant is free to leave the court and is no longer a defendant
  • If the magistrate decides there is sufficient evidence both defence and prosecutions will be advised that the matter (the charges against the defendant) will be heard in a higher court.  The higher court in Queensland is the District Court
  • It may take several months if not longer for the charges to be presented at the District Court and the court process starts over again.  A date will be set and all witnesses and evidence will be presented at the District Court trial
  • At conclusion of the committal hearing the magistrate will ‘enlarge’ the existing bail conditions on the defendant to ensure your protection while waiting for the matter to be set a date at District Court or remand the defendant in custody. 

image of a Magistrates Court layout
 
(Source: Queensland Court. (2002). Our Courts…an inside look. p.14)