Introduction| This is a study of the law governing committal for trial. The primary focus is on Australian legislation and case law, although a substantial number of English authorities have been included. Coronial proceedings have not been covered.
One cannot, of course, talk about an "Australian" system: the first task which a researcher in this field must undertake is an analysis of the Acts and Ordinances in force in the six States and two Territories which make up the Commonwealth. Such an analysis is presented in Chapter I.
This is followed by an examination of the objectives of committal procedures and a consideration of the criteria employed by an examining magistrate. The possibility of a higher court exercising supervisory powers over the conduct and outcome of a committal hearing has attracted a good deal of interest in a number of States and the case law on this subject is dealt with in Chapter IV. To complete this account of procedures in Australia the study includes a brief description of the role of the Attorney-General.
Chapter VI examines systems overseas. The countries whose procedures are outlined are: England, New Zealand, the United States of America, Canada, and Scotland. The concluding chapter draws attention to certain significant aspects of committal proceedings and outlines a model which seems to offer efficiency without sacrificing the basic objectives which these proceedings fulfil.
It must be emphasised that this study is a theoretical one. It does not incorporate the results of empirical research. The need for such research is great. To many the committal process is a cumbersome, mechanical routine, but their criticisms can be answered or confirmed only by rigorous study of the system in operation. Some suggestions for research are contained in Chapter VII.
I have endeavoured to state the law as at 31 May 1978.