24 July 2015
Part 2 of the Act reforms the committal process to reform the use of preliminary investigations and the use of oral evidence at preliminary inquiries; provide for the direct committal to the Crown Court of certain indictable cases where the defendant intends to plead guilty at arraignment; and provide for the direct committal to the Crown Court of certain specified offences.
This section amends the Magistrates’ Courts (NI) Order 1981 (“the 1981 Order”) by inserting a new Article 29A. This provides that committal proceedings in a magistrates’ court shall be conducted by way of a preliminary investigation where the courts so directs, and in all other cases, shall be by way of a preliminary inquiry.
An accused may apply to the court for a direction that a preliminary investigation is to be held, and the court may grant such an application only if it is satisfied that a preliminary investigation is necessary in the interests of justice.
This section amends Article 34(2) of the 1981 Order (giving of evidence on oath at a preliminary inquiry) to provide that the prosecution or the accused may apply to the court for leave to require the giving of evidence on oath at a preliminary inquiry. Such leave will only be granted if, in the opinion of the court, this is necessary in the interests of justice.
This section provides that the direct transfer provisions apply where an accused person appears before a magistrates’ court charged with an offence and certain conditions are satisfied.
This section makes provision for the direct committal (without conducting committal proceedings) of an accused person to the Crown Court who wishes to plead guilty to an offence.
This section provides for the direct committal to the Crown Court for trial where an accused person is charged with a specified offence.
This section provides for the direct committal to the Crown Court for trial of a co-accused person who is charged with an offence related to a specified offence.
This section prescribes the procedures to be followed in relation to direct committal, including the giving of notice to, and service of documents upon the accused and the Crown Court.
This section prescribes the procedures to enable an accused person who has been directly committed to the Crown Court to apply to the court to have the charge or charges dismissed.
This section makes provision for reporting restrictions in relation to applications for dismissal of a charge or charges.
This section gives effect to Schedule 3 to the Act, which contains amendments consequential to the provisions on direct committal, and makes further supplementary provision.