Preliminary Hearing

If you choose to be tried in the Supreme Court of BC, either with or without a jury, you or the prosecutor may ask to have a preliminary hearing (also called a “preliminary inquiry”) in Provincial Court if the offence is punishable by 14 years or more of imprisonment. At the hearing, the Crown will present witnesses to testify about the events. Your lawyer – or you, if you don’t have a lawyer – will have a chance to cross-examine (question) each witness to test their truthfulness, reliability and memory. Although you have the right to call defence witnesses it is very rare for the defence to present witnesses at a preliminary hearing.

At the end of the hearing, the judge will decide if there is enough evidence to send you to trial in the Supreme Court. The test is whether a reasonable jury, properly instructed, could convict on the evidence provided in the preliminary hearing. If there isn’t enough evidence, you will be discharged and the matter will be ended.

Sometimes an accused person will only want to hear the testimony of certain Crown witnesses. In that case they may “consent to committal” and the hearing will be limited to the witnesses they request.

This website provides general information only and should not be used as a substitute for legal advice.

Updated February 2020