Trials conducted in the Magistrates Court are normally handled by the police prosecutors. The court is presided upon by a magistrate, there is no jury.
At the commencement the accused will be required to answer the charge. The court will read the charge(s) and a plea of not guilty is entered. From there the accused shall be in the court throughout the entire case, normally seated in the front row of the gallery. Witnesses for either side are not permitted to be in the court room until they give evidence. Once completed they are entitled to remain in the court as a spectator.
The prosecutor usually opens with an outline of the case and advising the court of how they intend to prove the charges, which witnesses will be called. Having done so the first witness is called to the witness box. That person will take an oath or make an affirmation to tell the truth.
The prosecutor will ask that witness questions. Following that, you or your lawyer are entitled to ask questions in cross-examination. Following cross-examination, the prosecutor is entitled to ask further questions to clarify matters arising during cross-examination. That process is followed for each of the prosecution witnesses.
Where some of the evidence has been agreed then statements or documents may be provided to the court without the need for the authors to be present and subjected to giving oral evidence.
Once the prosecutor has called all the prosecution witnesses, it is the turn of the defence. A person charged with any offence cannot be forced to give evidence and a failure to give evidence cannot be the subject of any adverse comment.
If the defence chose to give evidence, then the person charged (“the accused”) will be the first person to give evidence. The same process outlined about the prosecution witnesses then takes place.
At the end of all the evidence, the prosecutor will make a closing address as to why the accused person should be convicted. Following that you or your lawyer has the right to make a closing address outlining the reasons why the accused should be found not guilty.
Generally, the prosecution must prove every important aspect of the charge to a standard of proof known as “beyond a reasonable doubt”.
If an accused person is found not guilty, then an application can be made for that person’s legal costs to be paid in part or full by the State.