The summary case conference is a meaningful discussion between the prosecution and the accused regarding pre-trial disclosure, the issues in dispute and the prospects of resolving the charges. It can be conducted in any manner, including in person, over the phone or by other means of communication (Magistrates’ Court Criminal Procedure Rules 2019 r22).
One of the expected benefits of the summary case conference is that following a request by the defence, the prosecution will provide a copy of specific relevant witness statements or test results. These will reveal the strength or weakness of the prosecution’s case. In suitable cases, this targeted disclosure may be a more efficient use of police resources than preparing a full brief.
The CPA 2009 states that:
(1) A summary case conference is a conference between the prosecution and the accused for the purpose of managing the progression of the case including -
(a) identifying and providing to the accused any information, document or thing in the possession of the prosecution that may assist the accused to understand the evidence available to the prosecution; and
(b) identifying any issues in dispute; and
(c) identifying the steps required to advance the case; and
(d) any other purpose prescribed by the rules of court (CPA 2009 s54(1)).
Evidence of anything said or done in the course of a case conference is not admissible in any later proceeding or judicial inquiry. Documents prepared solely for the purpose of the conference are similarly inadmissible. These restrictions on admissibility are designed to promote open discussion of the case between the parties (CPA 2009 s54; CPA 2009, Explanatory Memorandum, clause 54).
A magistrate or a registrar may direct the parties to attend a summary case conference, regardless of whether a Notice to Appear is issued, where:
Victoria Police provides a summary case conference service; and
a preliminary brief or a full brief has been served on the accused (or their legal representative) before the case is listed for contest mention or summary hearing (CPA 2009 s54; Magistrates’ Court Practice Direction No 3 of 2010).
If a preliminary brief was served on the accused within 21 days of filing the charge-sheet, a summary case conference must be held before:
(a) the charge is set down for a contest mention hearing or a summary hearing; or
(b) a request for a full brief is made under s39(1) (CPA 2009 s54(2)).
If the accused is not legally represented, the court as constituted by a magistrate, registrar or judicial registrar may dispense with the need for a summary case conference (CPA 2009 s54; Magistrates’ Court Criminal Procedure Rules 2019 r25; Magistrates' Court Practice Direction No 3 of 2010).
The parties may agree to hold a summary case conference even if the police did not issue a notice to appear (CPA 2009 s54).