Accused or charged

An investigation in a criminal case often starts with a person being classified as a suspect. This is not a formal status which gives the suspect more rights.   A person suspected of a crime can be given the legal status of ‘charged’ at various points in the investigation (e.g. anyone remanded in custody is classed as charged).

According to section 83 of the Criminal Procedure Act, a suspect is classed as charged when “the prosecuting authority has charged him or when proceedings against him are commenced in court or seizure, search, confiscation or similar precautions have been decided or undertaken against him”.

Charges can be dropped during investigation, such that the person is not deemed to be charged when investigations are concluded. A suspect cannot be given the status of charged by the undertaking of secret investigation proceedings such as communications intercepts.

Once investigations for a case are completed, the prosecuting authority files charges when it believes that the person charged should be tried for the actions he is charged for. At that time, the person is given the status of accused in the case.

 In many cases, the status of charged and accused give entitlement to defence at the public's expense. In addition, suspects charged or accused have more rights of access to the case documents.

You can find more details on your rights as charged and accused in a criminal case on the Ministry of Justice and Public Security's website.

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