Voluntary Criminal Case Conferencing
Since November 2006, the Supreme Court of Western Australia has offered a voluntary criminal case conferencing process (VCCC) to assist in resolving issues in criminal cases speedily and, in some cases, to avoid the need for a trial altogether.
VCCC conferences are conducted by one, or in rare cases two, facilitators. The Court has currently engaged two facilitators from outside the Court, being Mr Hal Jackson, former District Court judge, and Mr Paul O’Brien, a retired criminal lawyer of many years’ experience. In addition, the three Registrars of the Court who also hold appointments as Magistrates may also act as facilitators. A Registrar of the Court will only be the VCCC facilitator for a case if it has been committed to the Supreme Court. This ensures that there is no potential for a conflict between the roles of Registrars sitting as Magistrates in the Stirling Gardens Magistrates Court and Registrars acting as facilitators for VCCC.
The Court offers VCCC at the committal stage to encourage case conferencing at the time of prosecution disclosure under s 42 of the Criminal Procedure Act 2004 (WA). Importantly, this is the period during which the defence first learns the strength of the prosecution case, and the DPP formulates the terms of the indictment. In some cases it is the ideal time for the parties to confer and try to agree on a sensible way forward. However, VCCC remains available to the parties at any stage of the pre-trial period andthe parties can request referral to the VCCC at any time from the accused’s first appearance in Stirling Gardens Magistrates Court. If they have not done so, then either at the first appearance of an accused in the Supreme Court or at the first status conference of a matter, the presiding judge will ask the parties whether they agree to the matter being referred for VCCC. The parties should have already considered this issue and be in a position to advise the presiding judge of their attitude.
Involvement of the parties in VCCC is conducted in accordance with the Protocol for Voluntary Criminal Case Conferencing, developed by the Court to ensure that VCCC does not improperly interfere with the conduct of the criminal process.
Participation in the process is entirely voluntary, for the State/Commonwealth and the accused. Only if counsel for the State/Commonwealth and counsel for the accused agree that a case might appropriately be dealt with in this way does the protocol apply.
The conference and the facilitator's involvement do not form part of the trial process. Nor is anything said or agreed by the parties or their counsel at such a conference binding in the sense that it is enforceable or able to be used against a party at trial.
The conference may be with respect to any issue/s, but matters which might be the subjects of discussion include identifying the issues, resolving evidentiary issues by agreement between the parties, agreeing to the making of admissions, the likely prospects of conviction or acquittal and other possible outcomes.
Please refer to the Protocol for Voluntary Criminal Case Conferencing page for more information.
Last updated: 7-Apr-2015
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