Pleading the Belly
However, I look forward to the case where I inform a court that my client will so plead.
Indictments are like cheques; sign them!
endorsed the decision in R v Morais (1988) 87 Cr App R 9. In that case the judge had given leave to prefer a voluntary bill against the accused, who was arraigned on six counts in the bill. The accused pleaded not guilty, was convicted on four counts and was sentenced. Relying on the Administration of Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1933, he appealed on the ground that the bill had never been signed by the proper officer: without a signature, he argued, there could be no indictment, and without an indictment there could be no valid trial.
In Morais the Court of Appeal agreed with the submission. The court endorsed a statement of Peter Pain J in an earlier case:
It seems to us that it is impossible for a criminal trial to start without there being a valid indictment to which the defendant can plead, and that the bill of indictment does not become an indictment until it is signed”.
In Ireland the relevant legislation is the Criminal Justice (Administration) Act 1924. It mandates the form of the indictment in the Act and in the First Schedule to the Act. The choice of indictment is limited to the charges expressed or implied in the documents known as the âBook of Evidenceâ? served on the accused.
The sequel to the Book of Evidence
It is currently unchallenged, in Ireland, that an accused person is entitled to access to the evidence, prior to trial, that the State intends to adduce against him/her at trial. In Ireland, for many years, the procedure to secure that entitlement for the accused was set out in the Criminal Procedure Act 1967. That Act conferred a role on the District Court, in indictable cases, in deciding whether to send a person forward for trial to the Circuit Court or […]