This post is for those legal-minded readers who have questions about the court process that will take place at the September 13th hearing like I did. I wanted to know what actually will happen at the September 13th hearing? Do all those charged have to have representatives present? Can the case be dismissed then? Is that when it will be determined that the case will move ahead or be thrown out? What will Steven Unthank's role be at the hearing?
First of all, let's get this straight. This is not about individual JW's who have been charged for their activities as JW's (i.e. preaching without a permit, the blood issue, or neutrality) but rather the bodies and corporations as entities under the law. And we are not talking about lawsuits or civil cases or class actions or court appeals or even actions over being disfellowshipped. Please let me remind readers that this is actually a CRIMINAL CASE and that the accused have been charged in relation to their activities as "incorporated and unincorporated bodies or associations." Here's a link to a website that had many answers to my court process questions: http://www.magistratescourt.vic.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/justlib/Magistrates+Court/Home/Criminal+Proceedings/ Here are some relevant parts: Criminal Proceedings
The criminal jurisdiction of the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria hears and determines all summary offences and some indictable offences. The Court also conducts committal hearings in relation to more serious indictable offences that must be finally determined in the County or Supreme Courts. The criminal jurisdiction primarily deals with police prosecutions, but also deals with prosecutions by various other prosecuting agencies including Corrections Victoria, Department of Primary Industry, local councils, VicRoads and Victorian WorkCover Authority (WorkSafe).
Summary proceedings are those of a less serious nature which are heard by a magistrate. They include traffic offences, minor assaults, property damage and offensive behaviour. Some summary proceedings can be dealt with in the absence of the accused if the magistrate deems it appropriate. These are called ex parte hearings.
Indictable proceedings are those of a more serious nature which may be heard by a judge and jury of the County or Supreme Courts. These charges cannot be heard in the absence of the accused. Failure to attend a hearing by the accused may result in the issue of a warrant to arrest. Certain indictable offences may be heard and determined by a magistrate with the accused’s consent. These offences include burglary and theft. Some indictable offences must be heard in by a higher jurisdiction regardless of the wishes of the accused, for example, murder and rape.
Before a magistrate finds a person guilty of criminal offences, he or she must be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt of the person’s guilt.
With a little research and a lot of help from my friends, here's some comments that perhaps could help everyone understand a bit more about the charges that Steven Unthank filed and what might happen: The charges that have been laid against the five bodies that make up the Committee of Management for the Religion of Jehovah's Witnesses in the State of Victoria are INDICTABLE OFFENCES. These are in the most serious classification of criminal offences within the Victorian State. If found guilty these bodies CAN be declared criminal organizations. (Now that sounds like an impossible dream!) The directors and members of the various bodies CAN (note the word, "CAN") also be charged and go to jail. There is no such thing as a suspended sentence.
Further, an Indictable Criminal offence can not be negotiated with a plea or a warning. You can not get off with a police warning or misdemeanor.
On September 13th the following can happen: Adjournment so that more time can be granted to the accused to prepare their case. Now here's one for our JWN posting attorney, Band On The Run: A Nolle Prosequi (no further prosecution) can be presented to the magistrate by the Prosecutor (which is technically, believe it or not, Steven Unthank at the moment!). A date can be set for a Committal Hearing. This hearing allows for the strength of the Prosecutor's case to be tested. This is optional but must be requested by the Prosecutor. (Oh, how much I would like to be a fly on the wall of the court room along with the other posters who want to be flies on the wall to watch this, that is, if it becomes a reality. When was the last time the Governing Body of JWs or the Faithful and Discreet Slave or the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society or even the Christian Congregation of JWs were formally charged with indictable criminal offences?)
If there is enough evidence and the Magistrate accepts that evidence, then the accused are "committed to stand trial" which means ordered to face a judge and jury for a criminal trial. The accused are then formally indicted.
The case can then be referred to either the County Court or the Supreme Court, the later being the most likely.
Upon being indicted, steps can be taken to have the members of the Governing Body also charged with criminal offences as officers of the unincorporated body. This has nothing to do with their religious beliefs but has to do with allowing others to commit the criminal offences. There is no need for a hearing to test the strength of the case as this has already been done. Indictments can be drawn up and international warrants can then be issued for their arrest and charging. By the way, Australia and the United States have a joint extradition treaty. (If all of this should become a reality, I think I'll have lots of company at the front door of WT headquarters waving good-bye.) The following links are worth looking at for the purpose of answering court procedure questions. http://www.vla.vic.gov.au/826.htm
The link below is a download of a booklet called "Your Day In Court" and is advice for the accused. I would think that Watch Tower officials would want to read it. http://www.vla.vic.gov.au/cl.your_day_court.pdf
That's all folks and please don't ask me any questions because I'm suffering from brain burn-out! Barbara