Hearings explained

What is a filing hearing?

A filing hearing is the first hearing in the committal process and enables the court to fix the timetable for the early part of the court process. A filing hearing is generally a brief hearing of less than five minutes and is administrative. At the filing hearing, the court will fix a committal mention date.  

The committal mention hearing must be within three months of the commencement of the criminal proceeding for sexual offences. The date can be extended if the court is satisfied it is in the interests of justice.

At the filing hearing, the court will also fix a time for service of the hand-up brief. This is all the evidence in the case inthe form of written and signed statements from witnesses as well as copies or photographs of exhibits. It must be served at least 42 days before the committal mention hearing unless the accused gives written consent to a shorter period for service. The date can be extended if the court so orders. At the filing hearing, the court will make any other directions that it thinks necessary in the interests of justice, such as directions about the forensic examination of exhibits.  

At the conclusion of the filing hearing, the registrar must provide the accused with a notice of committal proceeding identifying the committal mention date, and the next steps in the proceeding.

Where an accused is charged on summons, the accused may apply to the presiding magistrate to be excused from attending the filing hearing if he or she is represented by a lawyer. At the conclusion of the filing hearing, the matter is adjourned to the next step, being the committal mention hearing. Where the accused is arrested, the accused is remanded either on bail or without bail until the committal mention hearing.

What is a committal mention hearing?

A committal mention hearing is the second part of a committal proceeding. It comes after a filing hearing and is important to the efficient case management of allegations of indicatable offences. Prior to a committal mention the accused will have been served with a hand-up brief in accordance with the order made at the filing hearing. The hand-up brief comprises copies of all witness statements and exhibits upon which the prosecution will rely, and discloses any other relevant materials.

Prior to the committal mention hearing, the parties are required to jointly file a Case Direction Notice (form 32) advising the court of the procedure by which it is proposed the matter be dealt with, indicating whether an adjournment is sought and identifying any matters that may require determination at the committal mention.

At a committal mention the magistrate may:

  • immediately determine the committal proceeding if the accused does not seek to cross-examinewitnesses, call evidence or make any submissions at the committal hearing. This is known as the Straight Hand-Up Brief (SHUB) procedure. If the SHUB procedure is adopted the prosecution will tender the hand-up brief. If the magistrate is satisfied that the brief tendered establishes there is evidence of sufficient weight to support a conviction for the offence(s) charged, the magistrate will commit the accused for trial in the County Court or Supreme Court. The accused will then be required to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. The matter will then be listed for hearing as a plea or trial at the County Court or Supreme Court
  • offer a summary hearing or determine anapplication for summary hearing of any indictable charges that are capable of being finalised by the Magistrates’ Court
  • hear and determine an application for leave to cross-examine any witnesses at a committal hearing
  • fix a date for committal hearing
  • hear and determine any objection to disclosure of material
  • fix a date for a further committal mention
  • make any other order or give any direction that the court considers appropriate
  • where the accused is arrested, the accused is remanded either on bail or without bail until thecommittal mention hearing. 
Further information on hearings is available HERE

Sexual Offences List in the Magistrates Court of Victoria

All sexual offences, indictable and summary, are case managed through the Sexual Offences List.The Sexual Offences List was established in response to the 2004 Victorian Law Reform Commission's Report on Sexual Offences, in recognition of the unique nature of sexual offences.

Sexual Offences Lists operate at venues of the Magistrates' Court of Victoria at Melbourne and in the regions, and also in the Children's Court. The magistrates who sit in the list are members of the Magistrates' Court Sexual Assault Management Committee, which is responsible for professional education and policy responses. The current Supervising Magistrate for Sexual offences is Belinda Wallington.

There are specific legislative provisions relating to sexual offences. Compliance with these provisions is monitored at mentions and committal mentions in the Sexual Offences List. Special protections apply to complainants during committal hearings involving sexual offences. The court is closed during the giving of evidence by a complainant against whom a sexual offence is alleged.

It is a criminal offence to publish any particulars likely to lead to the identification of a person against whom a sexual offence is alleged to have been committed if the matter is pending before a court.