Except for certain minor indictable offences which may be dealt with by the Court of Summary Jurisdiction, the Supreme Court has exclusive jurisdiction over all indictable offences under the Territory and Commonwealth law. Indictable offences are those which are considered ‘crimes’ under the Northern Territory Criminal Code. Typically, these are offences such as murder, manslaughter, robbery, sexual assaults, major fraud, serious assaults and major drug matters.
Matters usually come before the Court after a committal hearing in the Magistrates Court. The purpose of a committal hearing is to determine whether there is sufficient evidence for the defendant to be placed on trial in the Supreme Court. If a Magistrate considers that there is sufficient evidence he will adjourn, or commit, the defendant to stand trial in the Supreme Court.
Once in the Supreme Court, criminal matters are assigned trial or plea dates by the Criminal Registrar. Only a small percentage of matters (less than 20%) are dealt with by trial with a jury in the Supreme Court. Most matters are dealt by way of plea – that is the defendant will enter a plea to charges on an indictment and the Judge will proceed to sentence after hearing submissions from both the Prosecution and the Defence.
A defended matter, that is one where the defendant enters a plea of not guilty, are dealt with by a Judge and jury. The role of the jury is explained in more detail on the Jury Information page. Juries are usually comprised of 12 persons, however the Court can empanel up to 15 jurors for long and complicated trials. A verdict can be delivered by 10 jurors or more.
When in the criminal jurisdiction, the Judge will wear a red robe with a wig.