By Sophie Coulson
The Justice Legislation Amendment (Committals and Guilty Pleas) Act 2017 (“The Act”) changes the committal process as we currently know it and amends the sentencing discounts available for guilty pleas. It is expected to commence on 30 April 2018.
This post is not a comprehensive guide to the new legislation. It is intended to be a summary for the time poor practitioner. The legislation and Second Reading Speech of Attorney General, Mark Speakman, should be considered in full.
The Act amends committal procedures currently set out in Part 3 of the Criminal Procedure Act 1986 for proceedings commenced after the new legislation commences. The role of the Magistrate shifts from assessing the sufficiency of the prosecution evidence to facilitating effective negotiations between the parties earlier in the court process. The Act retains the statutory basis to apply to cross-examine prosecution witnesses [ss.82 to 92]. The same tests apply in considering applications made pursuant to the current sections 91 and 93 Criminal Procedure Act (to be replaced by sections 82 to 84).
The Act also amends the Crimes Sentencing Procedure Act 1999 (“CSPA”) introducing mandatory caps on sentencing discounts given by Judges for the utilitarian benefit of a guilty plea.
The new scheme follows the report of the NSW Law Reform Commission titled “Encouraging Appropriate Early Guilty Pleas”. The Act will, eventually, work alongside two associated bills, being the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Amendment (Sentencing Options) Bill 2017 and the Crimes (High Risk Offenders) Amendment Bill 2017.