Criminal Trial Procedure

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Criminal Trial Procedure

A jury of 12 people is used in criminal cases where the accused pleads not guilty. The judge explains to the jury that the burden of proof is on the Crown; that is, the Crown must prove that the accused is guilty of the offence. The standard of proof is 'beyond a reasonable doubt'.

Jury Empanelled

Prosecution Opening

Defence Reply

The defence presents a response to the prosecution opening. This response must outline the issues in the trial and identify those facts that are not contested.

Judge's Address

Immediately after the defence responds to the prosecution opening (or at any time the judge deems appropriate), the trial judge may address the jury on: the issues in the trial; the relevance to the conduct of the trial of any admissions made, directions given or matters determined prior to the trial.

Prosecution Case

Before the calling of the witnesses the court may ask witnesses to leave the room. Prosecution witnesses are called and examined, cross-examined and re-examined. The rules or evidence are complex and the judge will decide whether the questions/evidence is admissable. Some evidence is not allowed in criminal trials because it is considered prejudicial to the accused.

'No Case' Application

The prosecution starts with a summary of the case explaining the nature of the alleged offences, the elements that must be proved by the Crown and the evidence that the prosecution will be presenting to the court to prove the charges against the defendant.

At the end of the prosecution's evidence, the defence may argue that there is no case to answer. If the judge agrees, the jury will be directed to acquit the case.

Defence Case

If the case proceeds, the defence is given the opportunity to present witnesses. These witnesses are examined in the same way as the prosecution witnesses. The accused can remain silent and the jury/prosecution cannot presume the defendant has something to 'hide' just because they do not wish to speak.

Final Addresses

After the defence completes its case, both the prosecution and the defence address the jury. This stage can be crucial, particularly in longer trials where the jury may have forgotten evidence presented earlier. Counsel summarise the evidence presented, drawing attention to the strengths of their arguments and highlighting the weaknesses in the other side's argument.

Criminal Trial Procedure

Judge's Charge to Jury

The judge instructs the jury on the relevant points of law. The judge will usually advise the jury that the onus is on the Crown to prove 'beyond a reasonable doubt' that the accused is guity of the offences.

Jury Verdict

The jury then retires to the jury room to consider its verdict. When a jury cannot reach a unanimous verdict after six hours, a majority verdict may be accepted. A majority is defined as 11 out of 12 jurors. In theory the jury is given 6 hours, but in reality this may be extended if the jury feels that they can come to a consensus.The judge may ultimately declare the jury a 'hung jury'- a jury unable to render a cerdict- in which case it is discharged and a new trial ordered.


If a person is found guilty, the judge will hold a sentencing hearing and decide what sentence to give. At the sentencing hearing, both the prosecution and the defence present information about the offender to assist the judge in determining an appropriate sentence.

If the defendant pleads not guilty...


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