Preparation for summary trial
Section 18: Intermediate diets
124.This section amends section 148 of the 1995 Act which relates to intermediate diets, the purpose of which is to allow the court to ascertain if the parties to a case are adequately prepared to proceed to trial on the date assigned.
125.Paragraph (a) inserts a new paragraph (ba) into subsection (1) of section 148. This provides that the court at the intermediate diet should ascertain from parties the number of witnesses that are required to attend the trial. This is intended to ensure that the parties to a case have given proper consideration to which witnesses they wish to call at the trial before the intermediate diet. This should, in turn, reduce the number of witnesses who are called to the trial and are subsequently not required to give evidence.
126.Paragraph (b) amends subsection (2)(a) of section 148. The present position is that discharge of the trial diet is mandatory where, at the intermediate diet, the court considers that it is unlikely that the trial will proceed on the appointed day. The amendment to subsection 2(a) changes that position by making the discharge in these circumstances discretionary.
127.Paragraph (d) replaces subsection (4) of section 148. Currently the court ‘may’ at the intermediate diet ask the prosecutor and the accused questions to ascertain the state of preparation of their cases. The new subsection (4) provides that the court ‘shall’ ask such questions.
Section 19: Notice of defences
128.This section makes new provision in relation to the notification by the accused of a special defence or a notice calculated to exculpate the accused by incriminating a co-accused. The section substitutes the existing sections 149 (Alibi) and 149A (Notice of defence plea of consent) of the 1995 Act with a new section 149B.