A defendant does have a right to trial by jury, but sometimes, a defendant seeks to have the matter decided by a Judge alone.
A defendant may elect to have a trial by judge alone for a variety of reasons. This may include the belief that his trial may be prejudiced by previous media publicity. At the current time, the accused elects if they want to have the matter heard by Judge alone, but a Judge alone Trial is allowed only if the DPP (Department of Public Prosecutions) consents. NSW is the only jurisdiction where this is the case. In other states the Court makes the final decision on a request by the accused for a Trial by a Judge only.
The vast majority of trials in District Court are decided by a Judge and a jury.
Statistically Judges are generally more likely to convict than juries. However, in a case where there may be a lot of prejudicial press coverage, there can be some advantages for the Accused in a Judge alone Trial. Defendants are likely to choose trial by Judge alone where preceding media publicity might render the jury unsympathetic. Traditionally, Judges are regarded as less affected by prejudicial material than jurors in determining the guilt of an accused.
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This is intended for general information and does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Formal legal advice should be sought.