The Police ‘Brief of Evidence’

When a person is charged with a criminal offence, the police either post or hand the accused person with what is called a Court Attendance Notice (CAN) that includes a copy of the police Full Facts sheet/s.

The Court Attendance Notice (CAN) tells an accused person to attend a Local Court and provides them with the date, time, and name of the Local Court to attend.

The police full facts sheet/s outlines the offences and the alleged acts and/or circumstances that police allege occurred or were done by the accused person. 

Once an accused person attends the Local Court on the specified date noted in the CAN and if the accused person pleads in Local Court not guilty to the charge/s, police generally start to prepare what is called a ‘brief of evidence’.

The Local Court gives police approximately four (4) weeks to prepare and serve the brief of evidence to the accused person in most criminal cases. Apart from some more minor summary offences punishable only by fines where a brief of evidence is not required to be served.

AND the brief of evidence MUST be served at least 14 days before a hearing in the Local Court pursuant to s 183(3) of the Criminal Procedure Act. Failure of the police to serve the brief within 14 days can lead the Local Court to refuse to admit any evidence from the brief of evidence. If, the police or prosecution fails to provide compelling reasons for not serving the brief in time to the accused person (see s 187(1)(a) of the Criminal Procedure Act). Which then can result in the brief of evidence to be inadmissible pursuant to s 188(1) of the Criminal Procedure Act and the charges withdrawn.

However, when a brief of evidence is served the accused person must be aware that the police brief of evidence is an all-important, at times lengthy and complicated set of documents, consisting of many parts and categories of evidence. AND should be checked thoroughly for completeness and read with care.

Firstly, the first page of the brief of evidence will contain a covering sheet and contents index page/s. These pages outline and state what is enclosed in the brief of evidence and if anything is still pending and/or outstanding to be included later. These pages should be cross-referenced with the contents in the brief of evidence to ensure all documents stated in the cover and content pages are included.

Secondly the entire brief of evidence should be read with care as it  generally  contains the all the evidence police have against the accused person that will be presented to the Court to meet the elements of the offence/s as charged.

Evidence documents inside the brief of evidence vary according to the charge or offences. However, the brief of evidence can likely include:

  • Another copy of the Court Attendance Notice (CAN) outlining the offences as charged and new Court date and time for attendance.
  • Another copy of the police Full Fact sheet/s
  • Written and signed civilian witness statements (if any)
  • Written and signed police statements; and
  • Copies of police notebook statements; plus
  • Forensic evidence (if any) which may consist of:
    • CCTV footage
    • Photographs or videos of the scene, offence, and/or injuries/damage
    • Electronic data (mobile phones or computer messages and screenshots etc)
    • DNA evidence
    • Fingerprint evidence
    • The accused person’s entire criminal history
    • A certified written transcript of an electronic interview with the accused person (if the accused persons elected to talk to police and participate in an recorded interview at the police station).
    • Certified written transcripts of any other witness’s and/or alleged victim’s electronic recorded interviews (vulnerable people such as children often have a recorded interview instead of written statements)

 

Also, the brief of evidence can be added to by police as the case progresses. Police can add and serve the accused person with additional material to the brief of evidence, along with added charges before a hearing/trial date.

Furthermore, if the matter is a serious indicatable offence (punishable by 5 years of more in prison) the Director of Public Prosecutions can add charges in the alternative in what is called a charge certification mention at Court.

In conclusion, the brief of evidence is a complex set of documents. It requires thorough reading and checking to gage the scope and strength of the evidence and must be severed within the required statutory timeframe.

Moreover, it requires legal expertise to understand, so if you or someone you know has been charged with a criminal offence and have a police brief of evidence served, contact Rep-Revive Criminal & Employment Lawyers® for a free initial consultation.

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