Committal hearings

Committal hearings (also known as committal proceedings) are heard in the Magistrates’ Court for indictable offences.

They occur after a person has been formally charged with an offence and either released on bail or held in remand. They mark the initiation of formal proceedings against an accused by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

Purpose of committal hearings

The purpose of these proceedings is for the Magistrate to determine whether the DPP has sufficient evidence to gain a conviction at trial in a higher court (i.e. whether there is a “prima facie” case). If the Magistrate deems that there is enough evidence for a conviction, he or she will commit the defendant to stand trial.

If there is insufficient evidence, the Magistrate can dismiss a case, and the defendant will be released. However, if further evidence is found, the defendant can be charged again.

Another purpose of committal hearings is to ensure efficiency in the operation of County and Supreme courts, as they will not have to waste time with weak prosecution cases.


There are two types of committal hearings:

  • Traditional method: prosecution witnesses give oral evidence in a courtroom under oath. As in a formal trial, these witnesses are examined and cross-examined. The defence may enter a plea, and occasionally call witnesses. However, the focus is on the prosecution.
  • Hand-up-brief method: prosecution witnesses give evidence through sworn written statements. This is the most common method of committal hearing.


See also:

Criminal pre-trial procedures

Bail and remand

Purposes of criminal pre-trial procedures