Court summary Essay Example
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Magistrate Court, 29/8/2013, 11.30am.
I visited the Magistrate Court on 28 August 2013. During my visit criminal proceeding in the case of Szanto, Raymond Steven was ongoing. The defendant had put through a request to have his sentence reduced. The defendant argued that his mother hand placed $10,000 as an assurance he would not run away if his sentence was suspended. The defendant also argued that he had 4 children from his spouse’s previous marriage that needed his support. He further argued that he had already served 7 months under confinement without reporting bad behavior. The crimes the accused was jailed for had been committed between 2004 and 2011.
As in most criminal cases, a suspect’s criminal history is very important in guiding the judge’s final decision. In this case, the Judge read out the defendants past criminal convictions. The criminal record included convictions for illegal substance abuse, theft and driving a vehicle without a driving license. The suspect was appealing against a 12 month sentence handed down in July 2012.
The suspect pleaded leniency on the grounds that he had not committed any crime in 2011. The Judge decided that the grounds were not enough for the sentence to be reduced, but ordered for the postponement of the sentence. The Judge decided the defendant would serve a suspended sentence were he would be expected to pursue a drug rehabilitation program and report regularly to the nearest bail station. The defendant’s sentence was suspended for 2 years and 3 months, during which any contravention of his probation conditions would see him back in jail. Although, the accused had committed many crimes in the past the judge’s decision overlooked this and decided to suspend his sentence. The judge’s objective for making this decision is based on the assumption that the main aim of the justice system is to reform offenders and not punish them.
As the lowest level of the Australian legal system, the magistrate’s courts are where criminal cases are first heard. The presiding Magistrate decides whether there is enough evidence for a case to proceed to trial. The judge decides whether to refer it to the district, supreme or magistrate court, depending on the nature of the case. Less serious criminal offences are handled by the magistrate court such as burglary, fraud, and assault and drug possession. The magistrate court also hears civil cases that involve disputes of less than $750,000, if greater amounts are involved in the dispute then it is handled by the Supreme Court. In contrast in the Supreme Court, the presiding judge is the one who decides whether a person is guilty or not, and sentences the accused. In the Supreme Court, a jury appointed by the court is responsible for the determination of guilt.
Apart from criminal proceedings and the civil proceedings discussed above. The magistrate court also handles minor family law matters, social security matter, taxation matters, domestic violence matters and applications for child-protection order.
Supreme Court, 29/8/2013, 9.30am, Day I of 2.
The next day on 28 August 2013, I visited the Supreme Court to also have a feel of how law enforcement is conducted here. Judge Bradley was presiding over a criminal case where Clinton Pollock was accused of assaulting the complainant at a traffic roundabout. According to the prosecution the assault was committed at 4 pm on 18 August 2013. According to the prosecution the accused attacked the complaint from behind and punched him four times. Earlier the accused had hit at the complaints car and had threatened to kill the complainant if he did not get out of the car. The complaints wife had witnessed the incident as she was seated in the car, while his husband was being assaulted. The complaints avoided further confrontation with the accused by driving off to the nearest medical centre. Those who attended to the defendant injuries confirm they were caused by the accused. The defendant pleaded not guilty to the charges, prompting the case to go to trial.
After hearing the facts of the case, the court proceeded to pick a panel of juries to determine the case. The lawyers for the two teams are free to challenge the appointment of any member of the public to the jury. This move is aimed at ensuring the final jury picked to hear the case and determine whether the accused is guilty is fair.
In contrast, to the magistrate court the Supreme Court hears very serious criminal cases including murders, treason and aggravated assault as in this case. Civil cases brought before the Supreme Court involve disputes of over $750,000. As seen in the case before, summary judgement is unusual in the Supreme Court and strong evidence has to be produced for a matter to be decided. Such evidence is collected from witness accounts and expert evidence. In the present case, the witness evidence is provided by the complainant’s spouse while the medical staff that treated the accused after the assault provides expert evidence.
The Supreme Court also differs from the Magistrate court as a panel of juries decide whether the accused is guilty or not. While in the magistrate court this is the sole responsibility of the presiding judge.
In both, the magistrate and the district court, if the accused pleads guilty then the court does not need to proceed to trial.
My visit to the two courts was greatly beneficial to my understanding of the Australian justice system. I can now be able to confidently advice any person on the right channels to use while seeking justice in both a civil or criminal matter. My visit to the Supreme Court also made me aware of my public duty to serve as juror, if I am ever called to serve as one in the future, I would accept gladly. I am also aware of my duty to assist law enforcement while they are collecting evidence, as this enhances the fairness of the process. From, the Szanto, Raymond Steven case I was able to deduce that the Australian justice system seeks to reform offenders rather than punish them.
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