Recklessness: Report



A person charged with a criminal offence.


When an accused is found not guilty of a criminal offence.


A review of a decision by a higher court. An offender can appeal against their conviction and/or their sentence. If a criminal appeal is successful, the higher court can overturn the conviction, or change the sentence.


Allowing an accused to be released from custody until the hearing of their case in court. Conditions can be attached to bail, for example, the accused might be required to reside at a certain address.

Beyond reasonable doubt

The standard of proof in criminal cases. It is the highest standard of proof. By comparison, the lower standard of proof in civil cases is the ‘balance of probabilities’ (‘more likely than not’).


The criminal offence an accused is alleged to have committed. A prosecution starts when a charge is filed in court.


The introduction of comprehensive legislation that sets out laws and legal principles. Codification makes the legislation the primary source of the law.

Common law

Law developed from the reasoning given by judges in individual cases that is applied in later cases.


A formal finding of guilt for a criminal offence.

Criminal justice system

A term used to describe the system for responding to crime. It includes the police, prosecuting agencies, defence lawyers, the courts, and correctional services.

Criminal offence

Conduct that the law says is prohibited and punishable under the criminal law. A criminal offence is against the state and is prosecuted on behalf of the community.

Crown Prosecutor

A barrister appointed to work exclusively for the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). Crown Prosecutors have authority to make certain decisions on behalf of the DPP, including authorising resolution and signing indictments. They also appear in court to prosecute criminal matters.


A person’s responsibility, or blameworthiness, for a criminal offence and its consequences.


A term used to describe:

the accused’s lawyers

how the accused responds to the charge

a lawful excuse for a criminal offence, for example, self-defence.

Director of Public

Prosecutions (DPP)

The DPP is an independent legal officer responsible for prosecuting serious criminal cases in Victoria.


A decision not to go ahead with a charge on an indictment. A discontinuance brings the prosecution to an end.


The essential components of a criminal offence. An element can be either a physical element or a fault element. All elements of a criminal offence need to be proved by the prosecution beyond reasonable doubt before an accused can be found guilty of the offence.


Material presented to a court to prove or disprove a fact. Evidence can include what witnesses say in court and documents or objects marked as exhibits.

Explanatory Memorandum

A document that explains proposed legislation in simple terms.

Fault element

The element of a criminal offence that usually relates to the accused’s state of mind at the time they are alleged to have committed the crime. The main fault elements used in Victoria are intention, knowledge and recklessness.

A subjective fault element is based on a person’s actual state of mind at the time of their conduct.

An objective fault element generally assesses the accused’s behaviour by reference to what a reasonable person would have known, foreseen, or done in the circumstances.


Recognition or awareness of the potential outcomes of one’s actions.

Guilty plea

When an accused pleads guilty to a charge, they admit all of the elements of the criminal offence and forego their right to a trial.

Higher courts

In Victoria, the County Court and the Supreme Court.

Indictable offence

A serious criminal offence determined in a higher court.

Indictable offence triable summarily

A less serious indictable offence that can be determined in a lower court.


A formal written document filed in a higher court by the DPP that sets out the charge/s against the accused. An indictment must be authorised by a Crown Prosecutor or the DPP.


A conclusion reached on the basis of evidence and reasoning.


The person responsible for a criminal investigation and filing charges in a case. Often a member of Victoria Police, but sometimes a representative from another agency.


A senior legal officer who hears cases in a higher court.


The authority of a court to hear cases within a particular geographic area and/or certain types of cases.


Members of the public who are selected to hear the evidence in a trial and decide whether an accused is guilty or not guilty of each charge on an indictment.

Jury directions

The legal instructions provided by a judge to a jury.


A written law made by Parliament, also called an Act or statute.

Lower courts

In Victoria, the Magistrates’ Court and the Children’s Court.


A senior legal officer who considers and decides cases in a lower court.

Mandatory sentence

A type of sentence (for example, imprisonment) and/or minimum length of sentence or non-parole period that must be imposed, with limited or no exceptions.

Maximum penalty

The heaviest sentence a magistrate or a judge can impose for a charge.

Non-parole period

The period of a total sentence that an offender must spend in prison before they are eligible to be released on parole.


A person who has been found guilty or has pleaded guilty to a criminal offence.

Office of Public

Prosecutions (OPP)

The OPP prepares and conducts prosecutions on behalf of the DPP.

Physical element

The external element of a criminal offence, usually a person’s conduct (an act or omission). Circumstances and/or a result can also be physical elements of an offence.


A term used to describe the accused person telling the court whether they are guilty or not guilty of the charge.

Plea hearing

The hearing after a guilty finding at which the prosecution and defence present information they want the court to consider when deciding on the sentence.

Police prosecutors

Members of Victoria Police responsible for prosecuting summary offences heard in a lower court.

Presumptive sentence

A statutory presumption of a particular type and/or minimum length of sentence or nonparole period, subject to exceptions.


A term used to describe:

the case against a person accused of a criminal offence.

the lawyers conducting a criminal case before the court on behalf of the investigating agency.

Record of interview

A recording made of the formal questioning by police of a person suspected of committing a crime.


An agreement between the prosecution and defence about how charges will be finalised. Usually, it involves the accused agreeing to plead guilty to a particular charge or charges on the condition that the prosecution will withdraw, discontinue, or not proceed with a different charge or charges.

Second reading speech

A speech made by the minister introducing proposed legislation to Parliament to explain its general principles and purpose. 


The penalty given to an offender by a court.

Standard of proof

The level of certainty and the degree of evidence necessary to establish that a criminal or civil case has been proved.

Summary offence

A criminal offence heard and usually determined in a lower court. Less serious than an indictable offence.


A hearing in a higher court before a judge where all the evidence is presented, and a jury determines whether an accused is guilty or not guilty of each charge.


In criminal proceedings, a victim is a person who has suffered harm as a result of the action of an offender. In this report, the term applies to a person alleged by the prosecution to be a victim before the accused has been found guilty, as well as a person who has suffered due to an offence for the which the offender has been found guilty.

Withdrawal of a charge

If the prosecution decides not to proceed with a charge, it can apply to withdraw the charge, which brings an end to the prosecution of that criminal offence.

Figure 1: Victorian court hierarchy