New Section 166B
80.Subsection (1) of section 166B borrows from and extends the existing provisions of section 166 of the 1995 Act. It provides that a complaint may contain, and evidence may be led in respect of charges, notwithstanding that the charges, or evidence, may disclose the fact that the accused has previous convictions. The prosecutor presently in proceedings is restricted as to how s/he may make it known to the court that the accused has been previously convicted. The prosecutor may only lead evidence of previous convictions where that fact is evidence of the charge before the court or ask questions of the accused as a witness to show that s/he has been previously convicted where s/he has given evidence that s/he is of good character.
81.Subsection (2) provides details of when previous convictions may be disclosed on complaints (where the offences relate to the same occasion, are of a similar character or form part of a course of conduct). This is a fundamental change in procedure. Presently where an accused is charged with a series of offences and one or more of these offences is due to the fact that the accused has a previous conviction it is necessary to separate those charges which disclose the conviction from the other related charges. The most common scenario is where an accused is charged with a motoring offence and it is discovered that the accused has been previously convicted and disqualified from driving. The charge of driving whilst disqualified presently requires to be included in a separate complaint from the other charges (for instance careless or drunk driving) and where the accused pleads not guilty to the charges two separate trials are required. This provision will allow all the charges to be included in one complaint and evidence in respect of all the charges to be led at one trial.
Section 13: Complaints triable together
82.This section inserts a new section 152A into the 1995 Act and provides that where the accused is appearing for trial on two or more complaints on the same day the prosecutor may apply to the court to have all the charges tried together, notwithstanding that they are on separate complaints. The court, if it considers it expedient to do so, is to try the charges together. However, for further proceedings including sentence the complaints are to be treated separately. This provision will allow a court where there is more than one complaint against an accused for trial on the same day to conjoin the complaints to allow evidence in respect of all the charges to be led and the verdict returned in the one trial. Presently a separate trial in respect of each complaint is required with a separate verdict on each complaint being returned.
Section 14: Proceedings in absence of accused
83.This section amends sections 141, 145A and 150 of the 1995 Act, and inserts a new section 150A into that Act. The purpose is to extend the present provisions for proceedings at diets where the accused fails to appear. The section expands on the current provisions dealing with trials in absence found in section 150(5) of the 1995 Act. The amendments are minor and are consequential to the substantive change in relation to proceedings in absence against the accused.
84.Subsections (1) & (2) are consequential amendments upon subsection (3).
85.Subsection (3)(a) inserts a new subsection (3C) into section 150. It deals with the situation at an intermediate diet where the accused fails to appear and the court grants a warrant to apprehend the accused. In those circumstances the effect of section 150(3A) has the effect of discharging the trial diet unless the court grants an order to differing effect under section 150(3B). Section 150(3C) is added to confirm that an order under section 150(3B) (i.e. an order not to discharge the trial diet where the accused has failed to appear and a warrant to apprehend the accused has been granted) may be made for the purpose of having a trial in absence or for any other purpose. An order under section 150(3C) can be made on the application of the prosecutor or of the court’s own accord.
86.Subsections (5) to (7) of section 150, which outline the circumstances in which proceedings can currently take place in the absence of an accused in summary cases, are repealed and replaced by section 150A.