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5.1.1 - Directions Hearings

  1. The court may conduct directions hearings at any time, except during the trial.
  2. At a directions hearing, the court may make or vary any direction or order, or do anything the court considers necessary for the fair and efficient conduct of the proceeding. For example, the court may:
  3. A judge may also make any order or direction that can be made or decided before trial (CPA 2009 s181(3)). This allows a judge to make pre-trial orders and rulings on admissibility and issues of law under s199 of the CPA 2009 at a directions hearing.
  4. If the prosecution has filed an indictment, the court may arraign the accused at a directions hearing. If the accused pleads not guilty to one or more charges and indicates his or her intention to plead not guilty to all charges, it is not necessary to read the remaining charges to the accused and he or she must be taken to have pleaded not guilty to those charges (CPA 2009 s180).[1]

    Supreme Court Directions Hearings

  5. At the end of the committal hearing, the Magistrates’ Court will contact the Supreme Court Principal Registry to schedule a Post-Committal Directions Hearing (PCDH) (Supreme Court of Victoria, Practice Note SC CR 8, [4.3]).
  6. The PCDH will normally be held before the judicial registrar. Counsel who appeared at the committal are expected to appear at the PCDH (Supreme Court of Victoria, Practice Note SC CR 8, [4.2], [4.8])
  7. The PCDH will normally be listed within a day or two of the completion of the committal hearing. However, if the committal hearing was conducted outside the Melbourne metropolitan area, then the PCDH will normally occur within five days of the completion of the committal (Supreme Court of Victoria, Practice Note SC CR 8).
  8. The prosecution is not required to file an indictment at the Post-Committal Directions Hearing, although they must provide a police summary prior to the hearing (Supreme Court of Victoria, Practice Note SC CR 8, [4.7]).
  9. The Magistrates’ Court will forward relevant documents to the Supreme Court registry on the day of committal (Supreme Court of Victoria, Practice Note SC CR 8, [4.3]).
  10. Unless the accused was bailed to appear at the Supreme Court, the accused does not need to be present for the PCDH, but will appear by video-link (Supreme Court of Victoria, Practice Note SC CR 8, [4.6]).
  11. If the accused intends to plead guilty, the Judicial Registrar will set a timetable and a date for the plea hearing, and may arraign the accused (Supreme Court of Victoria, Practice Note SC CR 8, [4.9]).
  12. In a contested case, the Judicial Registrar will set a timetable for the filing of pre-trial documents and notices, and schedule a directions hearing before the Principal Judge. The Practice Note provides a standard timetable, which may be modified in a more complex case, if there are fitness to be tried issues, or if resolution may be possible (Supreme Court of Victoria, Practice Note SC CR 8, [4.10]-[4.12]).
  13. At the Directions Hearing before the Principal Judge, trial counsel are expected to appear. In addition to the matters identified in CPA 2009 s 181(2), counsel are expected to identify:
  14. A final directions hearing is held at least six weeks before the trial date. Trial counsel are expected to attend the final directions hearing. The purpose of the final directions hearing is to ensure all orders for filing documentation are complied with and the trial is ready to proceed on the listed trial date (Supreme Court of Victoria, Practice Note SC CR 8, [6.1]-[6.3])

    Supreme Court Case Conference

  15. The Judicial Registrar of the Criminal Division may conduct a case conference at any time before the trial (Supreme Court (Criminal Procedure) Rules 2017 r4.07(1)).
  16. The purpose of a case conference is to assist in the fair and efficient conduct of the trial. This includes clearly identifying what is in dispute and ensuring the trial is ready to begin on the listed trial date (Supreme Court (Criminal Procedure) Rules 2017 r4.07(2)).
  17. At a case conference, the DPP must, subject to any substantial concerns about a witness’ personal safety:

    (i) give notice of the name of any witness who may be called as a Crown witness upon the trial and whose name does not appear on the indictment as a witness or as an additional witness;

    (ii) give notice of the substance of the evidence proposed to be adduced from each such witness (whether by way of provision of a copy of a statement made by the witness or otherwise);

    (iii) provide to the Judicial Registrar-Criminal Division any information that the Judicial Registrar-Criminal Division may reasonably require as to the availability of each Crown witness;

    (iv) notify the Judicial Registrar-Criminal Division and the accused of the name of any potential Crown witness whose deposition the Crown proposes to apply to tender in evidence and the grounds of any such proposed application (Supreme Court (Criminal Procedure) Rules 2017 r4.07(4)(a))

  18. The accused or the accused’s legal practitioner must be prepared to certify that the accused is ready to proceed on the proposed trial date (Supreme Court (Criminal Procedure) Rules 2017 r4.07(4)(b)).
  19. Nothing said by or on behalf of an accused at a case conference, or a failure to answer a question at a case conference, can be used in any subsequent trial or made the subject of commence at that trial (Supreme Court (Criminal Procedure) Rules 2017 r4.07(5)).

    County Court Directions Hearings

  20. The County Court Criminal Division Practice Note PNCR 1-2015 sets out the procedure for directions hearings in the County Court. Historically, the court used different terminology for the first directions hearing, depending on whether the matter involved a sexual offence or not. Now, the first directions hearing is called an Initial Directions Hearing for all matters.
  21. The time for holding the Initial Directions Hearing for Melbourne matters is set out in the following table.

    Hearing Type

    Time for holding hearing

    Initial Directions Hearing (IDH) where no charges involve a sexual offence against a child or cognitively impaired complainant

    Next sitting day following conclusion of committal proceeding

    IDH involving sexual offence against a child or cognitively impaired complainant

    At least 28 days after the accused is committed for trial

  22. The following apply to the initial directions hearings in Melbourne:
  23. The IDH is usually listed in Court 2-10 (if it involves a sexual offence) or 2-9 (otherwise) at 9am. The prosecution must file the police summary by eLodgement by 4.30pm on the date of committal, unless the accused was committed after 4.15pm, in which case the summary must be filed by 8.45am on the day of the initial directions hearing. The defence must file a notice that legal practitioner acts by eLodgement and serve a copy on the prosecution by 8.45am on the day of the initial directions hearing (County Court Criminal Division Practice Note, PNCR 1-2015, [2.2]-[2.6]).
  24. At the IDH, the Judge will either adjourn for final directions hearing if a trial date is set or adjourn for a further initial directions hearing or mention.
  25. At an IDH, the Judge may ask:

    Initial Directions Hearings for sexual offences against a child or a cognitively impaired person

  26. An Initial Directions Hearings for sexual offences against a child or cognitively impaired complainant will be listed at least 28 days after the committal. The prosecution must file by eLodgement and serve on the defence within 14 days of the committal the hearing the following documents:
  27. The defence must file a Notice that Legal Practitioner Acts by eLodgement and serve a copy on the prosecution within 5 days of the commital (County Court Criminal Division Practice Note, PNCR 1-2015, [3.5]).
  28. The defence must also file a Form 198A – Application for Pre-Trial Cross-Examination and any confidential communications applications at least 7 days before the IDH (County Court Criminal Division Practice Note, PNCR 1-2015, [3.6]-[3.7]).
  29. The parties must be prepared to answer the following questions at the IDH:
  30. At the end of the IDH, the proceeding will be adjourned for a:

    Circuit Directions Hearing

  31. When an accused is committed for trial to a circuit location, the matter will be listed for a Circuit Directions Hearing in the next Circuit Directions Hearing list for that location.
  32. The prosecution must file the Police Summary and the defence must file and serve a Notice that Legal Practitioner Acts by 4.30pm of the day after the accused is committed (County Court Criminal Division Practice Note, PNCR 1-2015, [4.2]-[4.5]).
  33. Where the matter involves a sexual offence against a complainant who is a child or a person with a cognitive impairment, the prosecution must also file and serve the following documents within 14 days of the committal:
  34. The following apply to the Circuit Directions Hearing:
  35. At the end of the Circuit Directions Hearing, the matter may be listed for:

    Final Directions Hearings

  36. The Final Directions Hearing is fixed at an Initial Directions Hearing and will be held approximately 6-8 weeks before the trial is due to commence.
  37. Where the Final Directions Hearing is fixed, the Court makes orders of the kind set out in Attachment 2 or Attachment 3 of the County Court Criminal Division Practice Note PNCR 1-2015, depending on whether or not the case involves a sexual offence against a complainant who is a child or is cognitively impaired.
  38. The parties must file the following documents by eLodgement before the final directions hearing:
  39. Counsel for the trial must appear at the Final Directions Hearing and must inform of the court of any matter that may affect whether the trial will proceed at the listed time, such as:

    Evidentiary status of statements by accused

  40. In the Supreme Court, statements by or on behalf of the accused at a case conference, or an accused’s failure to answer a question, may not be used in a subsequent trial or made the subject of comment at a trial. This does not apply to prevent the accused from relying on an indication to plead guilty (Supreme Court (Criminal Procedure) Rules 2019 r4.07(5)).
  41. Similarly, in the County Court, statements by or on behalf of the accused at a pre-trial conference or directions hearing or an accused’s failure to answer questions not be used in a subsequent trial or made the subject of comment (County Court Criminal Procedure Rules 2019 r2.06).

Footnotes:

[1] - An arraignment at a directions hearing does not mark the commencement of the trial (CPA 2009 s210, s217). In addition, the process of entering a plea of not guilty to all charges through a representative plea is not available at an arraignment before the jury (Compare CPA 2009 s215).

Last updated: 31 August 2020

See Also

5.1 - Pre-Trial Procedures

5.1.2A – County Court Active Case Management System

5.1.2B - Legal practitioner to notify that he or she acts

5.1.2 - Pre-Trial Disclosure

5.1.3 - Sentence Indication

5.1.4 - Place of Trial

5.1.5A – Uplift and remittal of charges

5.1.5 - Discontinuing a Prosecution

5.1.6 - Taking Evidence Before Trial

5.1.7 - Direct Indictments and Attendance

5.1.8 - Pre-Trial Resolution of Issues

5.1.9 - Leading No Evidence