A mention date generally refers to the first court listing of a charge against a young person. Charges can be dealt with on the mention date if the young person pleads 'guilty' and the case is ready to proceed. Sometimes charges are adjourned to a later date for a further mention. This may happen because the case is not yet ready to proceed.
If, at a mention hearing, the young person indicates that he/she intends to plead 'not guilty' the case will be adjourned to a later date and may be listed for a contest mention hearing.
At the contest mention hearing the court talks to the parties about the nature of the prosecution case, the young person’s defence to the charge/s and about whether the case is able to be resolved without a contest hearing. Sometimes the young person will decide to plead 'guilty' on the contest mention date and the case can be dealt with. If the young person maintains his/her plea of 'not guilty', the case will be adjourned for a contest hearing.
At the contest hearing the young person pleads 'not guilty' to the charge/s and the court proceeds to hear the case. Both parties, i.e. the prosecution (in the Children's Court this is usually Victoria Police) and the lawyer representing the young person can present evidence and call witnesses. At the conclusion of all the evidence the court will make a decision as to whether or not it finds the young person guilty of the charge/s. If the young person is found guilty the court will decide what penalty to impose. If the court finds that the case has not been proved against the young person the charge/s will be dismissed.
A committal hearing is held in relation to charges for offences if:
- the Children’s Court cannot deal with the case because the charges exceed the court’s jurisdiction, or
- the Children’s Court decides that the charges, because of their extreme seriousness, should be heard in a higher court, or
the young person charged chooses to have the charges dealt with by a higher court.
At a committal hearing the court must decide whether the evidence against a young person is sufficient to order that he/she stand trial for the charge/s in a higher court. Trials are held in either the County Court or the Supreme Court depending upon the nature of the charge/s.