Recent News

A Guide To Navigating Charges & Magistrate’s Complaints

May 26, 2023

Charges & Magistrate’s Complaints


After the investigations are complete and the Prosecution decides to take action against the Accused, among the parties involved in the Criminal Justice System, formal charges will be drawn up. The charge is an important document, as it sets out the specific offence that the Accused is alleged to have committed. This serves to notify the Accused of the alleged offence and to allow him a chance to defend himself.

As such, the charge will need to set out the essential ingredients of the alleged offence. As part of proving the Accused’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the Prosecution will have to prove all the essential ingredients of the charge.

The power to commence a criminal charge is vested in the AG as the PP. This power is exercisable at the PP’s discretion and must be exercised in good faith and for the intended purpose.

All the charges that the Accused faces must be read to him individually, and he must confirm that he understands their contents and implications.

Amendment of charges

Given that the Prosecution has control of the direction of criminal proceedings, it has the power to amend charges at any time. The Court can also amend charges before judgment is given. 

When a charge is amended, the new charge should be read to the Accused, and it will need to be confirmed that he understands the charge against him.

Multiple charges

The general rule is that every distinct offence committed should have its own separate charge and that each charge needs to be heard in trial separately. However, there are exceptions to this general rule. Such exceptions include:

  • If the offences are part of a series of offences and are of the same/similar character.
  • If the offences form part of the same transaction.
  • When the Prosecution and the Accused both consent to have all offences heard together in the same trial.

Multiple accused persons

As mentioned above, the general rule is that every distinct offence should have its own separate charge and that each charge needs to be heard in trial separately. This holds true even in situations involving multiple accused persons. However, there are exceptions to this general rule. Such exceptions include:

  • The accused persons are accused of the same offence in the same transaction.
  • The accused persons are accused of different offences in the same transaction.
  • One accused is charged for an alleged offence, and the others have assisted the accused in the commission of the alleged offence.

Magistrate’s Complaints

In the event where a non-arrestable offence is not taken up by the law enforcement agencies for further investigations or prosecution, the Alleged Victim may choose to make a Magistrate’s Complaint. A case qualifies for a Magistrate’s Complaint if the offence is punishable by a maximum of three years’ jail or a fine, or both.

Upon application, the Alleged Victim will appear before a Magistrate and be examined. The substance of the examination must be written down and signed by the Alleged Victim and the Magistrate. After the examination, the Magistrate can make one of five orders:

  1. Summon before him any person who might help him determine if the complaint should be proceeded with.
  2. Direct the police to investigate the matter to determine the truth of the complaint.
  3. Direct parties to attend mediation.
  4. Postpone consideration of the matter to allow the Alleged Victim and Accused to try and resolve the matter amicably.
  5. Dismiss the complaint.

The value of the Defence Counsel at the charge stage

At the charge stage, the Defence Counsel, often criminal lawyers, can provide advice as to the nature and consequences of the charges. He can also make representations at this stage to the Prosecution, which may convince the Prosecution to either withdraw the charges or reduce them to less severe ones.



Click one of our representatives below to chat on WhatsApp or email us at

× How can I help you?