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Director of Public Prosecutions (WA) v Peters [2010] WASC 139
heard 22 April 2010; delivered 22 April 2010

Peters was convicted on indictment for stealing and recklessly driving a car. This is potentially more serious than a summary offence for the same act, with a maximum penalty of 8 years' imprisonment rather than 3 years'. Additionally, an indictable offence involves a long and expensive trial before a District Court judge and jury. A summary offence can be dealt with before a magistrate.

Many of the State's magistrates had treated the stealing and reckless driving charge as if it were strictly indictable, when in fact it was to be tried as a summary offence unless the case was particularly serious. Defendants may therefore have endured unnecessary trials by jury and unusually high sentences, so their convictions can be quashed:

[2] ...the time has come for this unseemly procedural ping-pong to stop and [the DPP] has brought the present application as a test case to establish the nature and character of a charge for an offence against s 378(2) of the Code ... in a disquieting number of instances in the past, magistrates have taken the approach that persons charged with that offence must be committed for trial or sentence in the District Court and have made corresponding orders for committal without considering whether or not, under s 5 of the Code, the charge should be dealt with summarily.
[11] Proceeding with a trial on indictment in respect of an offence which is either not indictable or which may only be tried on indictment if certain prior conditions are met, in the absence of satisfaction of those conditions, it is open to challenge because, if the trial were conducted without jurisdiction then, any ensuing conviction could be quashed – Bounds v The Queen [2005] WASCA 1.



You should not rely on these case notes for any purpose. They contain my views at the time they were written. They do not represent my employer's views, and may be outdated or differ from my current views.