Indictable offence

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In many common law jurisdictions (e.g. the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, Canada, Hong Kong, India, Australia, New Zealand), an indictable offence is an offence which can only be tried on an indictment after a preliminary hearing to determine whether there is a prima facie case to answer or by a grand jury (in contrast to a summary offence). In trials for indictable offences, the accused normally has the right to a jury trial, unless he or she waives that right. In the United States, a crime of similar severity is a felony, although it too proceeds after an indictment.

In English law the term refers to either way and indictable only offences. An either way or hybrid offence allows the defendant to elect between trial by jury on indictment in the Crown Court and summary trial in the Magistrates' Court. However, the election may be overruled by the court of first instance if the facts suggest that the sentencing powers of a Magistrates' Court would be inadequate to represent the seriousness of the offence. Some offences such as murder and rape are considered so serious that they can only be tried on indictment at the Crown Court where the widest range of sentencing powers is available to the judge. When the accused is charged with an indictable only offence, he/she is sent to the Crown Court for trial. [1]

Similarly in New Zealand, a rape or murder charge will be tried at the High Court, while less serious offences such as theft, will be tried at the District Court.

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