Trial Process

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ASSESS THE EFFECTIVENESS OF THE CRIMINAL TRIAL PROCESS AS A MEANS OF ACHIEVING JUSTICE.

The criminal trial process is a vital part of the criminal justice system in NSW as it plays a fundamental role in achieving justice, by determining the innocence or guilt of an offender. Yet, despite the criminal trial process still having many complex issues that remove it of achieving its full means of justice, the process has stood the test of time and lasted for more than two centuries. It aims at lawfully and justly providing victims, offenders and society with the rights of a fair trial. The hierarchies of courts play a crucial role in effectuating justice for the community. The courts jurisdiction is the extent of the court’s authority and is often determined by the hierarchy. The lowest form of court is the Local Court. The Local Court Act 1982 (NSW) outlines the offences that are heard in this court. They are less serious crimes, where matters are tried summarily, but are also the location for bail and committal hearings, where police play a prominent role in achieving justice. The Intermediate and High Courts handle indictable crimes as well as appeals from lower courts. It is in these courts that a decision made sets a doctrine of precedent. The court hierarchy is a major part of the criminal trial process as it allows appeals and precedents to flow easily. It attempts to ensure consistency between judicial decisions, as well as limit the discretion on most judicial verdicts. Appeals and precedents fundamentally ensure efficiency and the effectiveness of achieving justice, but despite them being an effective measure in achieving justice, there are still cheaper and more cost-efficient methods, such as YJC, and Circle Sentencing, that can fulfill the same outcome. The cornerstone of Australia’s criminal trial process is the Adversary System. This refers to the legal procedure where two opposing sides argue a case before an independent, third party eg. Judge/Magistrate. The third party remains impartial through appropriate process, such as crossexamination, and then comes to a conclusion at the end of the trial to decide whether the offender was guilty or not. They determined this by the standard of proof, and what version of events they believed were true. However, the adversary system has generated much controversy over the years. Adopted from English Common Law, this system focuses on finding a winner, rather than revealing the truth. Witnesses (especially victims) are often subject to unfair cross-examination, and the ability of the lawyer plays a strong role in evidence and although there is equal opportunity to present a case, and less likelihood of innocence going to jail, there is a lack of transparency both inside and outside the courtroom. Perhaps, the NSW justice system could benefit from a much preferred and alternate method, in the Inquisitorial system. Already in place in the Coroner’s court, it differs from the Adversary system as it makes use of the judge to discover facts, ask questions and use their discretion, whilst simultaneously representing society. Lawyers play a more passive role, only asking suitable questions, and leaving the discovering of facts to the judge. It effectively reduces the negative aspects of the adversary system, nullifying the impacts of legal representation, but the reliance on judge discretion and chance of bias puts the accused’s rights secondary to the truth, and this can impact severely on the community. During a criminal trial, there are numerous legal representatives present to try and obtain justice for the community, victim or accused. The most important professionals in the courts are those of the magistrates in the local courts, or judges in higher courts. They have the massive role of making rulings on admissibility as well as overseeing the conduct of the hearing. Yet, due to the high salary, many people criticise them for being too disconnected to society. The...
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