Certain offences are indictable only, some triable either way. Are there any that are considered so trivial as to be unworthy of the crown court’s resources?

  • 1
    Note in the US where a jury trial is a right plaintiffs are also allowed a bench trial where the case is decided by the judge. As long as the government and the court agrees to it.
    – Neil Meyer
    Commented Jul 4, 2023 at 7:25

4 Answers 4


In the UK, these are known as summary offences. In England & Wales, they are heard only in the magistrate's court, and they include:

  • low level motoring offences
  • minor criminal damage
  • common assault
  • being drunk and disorderly
  • taking a motor vehicle without consent

The Government maintains a spreadsheet with a detailed list of offences, which classifies them as indictable only, either way, summary non-motoring, and summary motoring. Of the summary non-motoring kind, the spreadsheet has 108 entries, though it appears that some of these entries cover multiple offences.

  • 1
    Does the UK allow bench trials for the cases where a jury is usual?
    – Neil Meyer
    Commented Jul 4, 2023 at 7:22

For summary offences, and for hybrid offences where the Crown decides to proceed summarily, the offence is tried in a summary conviction court. This involves a judge sitting without a jury. See Part XXVII of the Criminal Code.

There is also a list of offences that, even if charged as an indictable offence, must be heard by a provincial court judge, sitting without a jury. These are listed at s. 553 of the Criminal Code.


s80 of the Constitution requires a jury for indictable offences

The trial on indictment of any offence against any law of the Commonwealth shall be by jury, and every such trial shall be held in the State where the offence was committed, and if the offence was not committed within any State the trial shall be held at such place or places as the Parliament prescribes.

Australian law recognises three types of offences: indictable (requiring arraignment and a jury), summary (requiring a charge and a judge), and misdemeanour (a breach of law for which no specific penalty is set, requiring a charge and a judge). There is no right to a jury in civil trials and, while they are allowed, they are relatively uncommon.

One of the fathers of Federation, Issac Issacs, pointed out:

It is within the powers of the Parliament to say what shall be an indictable offence and what shall not. The Parliament could, if it chose, say that murder was not an indictable offence, and therefore the right to try a person accused of murder would not necessarily be by jury.

Well, yes. However, more than 120 years later, Parliament has been reasonably well-behaved about this.


All of them in

There are no juries in Germany, there's no right to a jury trial, and as a result, no case is heard in front of a jury in the common law sense since 1924.

many offenses are without Schöffen

If you stretch the definition of a jury to include Schöffen, sometimes called "lay judges", then there is a bright cutoff line:

In the lower courts, as long as the typical punishment (not the sentencing range!) is less than 2 years, the case is in front of a single judge. If 2 to 4 years are typical for a case, Schöffen are required.

Cases that require a punishment of above 4 years need to be handled in the upper courts, and Schöffen do play a role there too.

  • I thought a single judge can pass no more than 4 years.
    – o.m.
    Commented Jul 2, 2023 at 4:07
  • @o.m. he can't, and egen normal SChöffen can't, but if the expected range under normal circumstances is 0-2 years, you don't call the schöffen at all, and then the sentence range is 0 to 4 years from a single judge
    – Trish
    Commented Jul 2, 2023 at 8:52

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