Understanding the difference between summary and indictable offences can have a significant impact on an accused person’s case. It can affect the maximum penalties available, the modes (if any) of trial and a whole lot more.
What is the difference between summary and either way Offence?
It is important to know this distinction because it dictates which courts a person’s matter will be heard in and whether they have the right to a preliminary inquiry. This is especially true when dealing with hybrid offences.
Summary offences are less serious and can only be tried by Magistrates’ Courts. They can include things like littering, falsely impersonating a police officer or careless driving. If convicted, they typically result in small fines or community service. In many cases, a summary offence can be dealt with on the spot when you appear in court and will only remain on your record for a short time (you may be able to apply to have it wiped).
Indictable offences are more serious and are only heard by judges sitting without a jury in District or Supreme Courts. Indictable offences can include murder, aggravated assault and arson. If convicted of an indictable offence, the maximum penalty can include lengthy jail sentences and hefty fines. Indictable offences also give the Crown the option to hold a preliminary inquiry, an opportunity to hear and appreciate the evidence against you in a live court setting but without determining whether it is enough for the Crown to proceed with a trial.