What Are The Differences Between a Summary And An Indictable Offence?

Learn the various offences if you want to escape mischief that can lead you to jail problems. Indictable offence and summary offences are the main categories that lead to legal discourse. As much as both offences are law violations, the procedural aspects and severity are slightly different in the justice system.

Indictable Offence

What is a summary offence?

Summary offences are less severe infractions that are tried without a jury in lower courts. They are also referred to as summary conviction offences and are often straightforward and cover various minor infractions. Examples of summary offences include petty theft, traffic violations, minor assaults, and public disturbances.

The central defining feature is the speedy resolution and swift justice. This happens through a streamlined legal process with efficient resource allocation.

What is an indictable offence?

Indictable offences involves extreme infraction. These cases require a more comprehensive legal process, are filed in higher courts such as crown courts, and may include a jury trial. The jury listens to both sides of the case then makes a guilty or innocent decision.

Indictable offences cover cases from severe assault cases to homicide. Other violations include fraud and drug trafficking, among other serious crimes. 

Some offences demand thorough investigation. The inquiry involves evidence gathering, and the work should follow procedure. Proper procedures ensure the accused is heard. Unlike summary offences, where cases undergo swift resolution, indictable offences cases can take weeks, months, or years. The deliberations are lengthy and involve both jurors and professionals or expert witnesses.

Summary vs indictable offences – key differences


Indictable offences are grievous crimes, while summary offences are minor infractions. Indictable offences receive harsh penalties. Violent crimes carry lengthy prison sentences and significant consequences.

Legal process

Summary offences are resolved in lower courts through a simplified judicial process. However, indictable offences involve more extensive judicial proceedings, starting with preliminary hearings, grand jury indictments, and finally, jury trials. The whole process takes place in higher courts.


The judge imposes penalties in summary offences. These punishments can be fines, community service or even short-term prison sentences. In contrast, indictable offences get severe penalties like lengthy prison sentences. Sometimes, they get huge fines or severe sanctions. However, the penalties depend on the crime.

Court jurisdiction

Summary offences are determined in lower courts, whereas trials for indictable offences happen in higher courts. Indictable offences attract the attention of higher courts, which have more judicial resources and authority to handle complex legal issues effectively.

Right to get a jury trial

Only indictable offence are subjected to a jury trials. Jury trials involves selection of jurors who look at the evidence. The jurors listen to arguments of both the defence and prosecution to ensure impartiality. Jurors deliberate and make a guilty or innocent decision based on fair assessment of evidence. However, the judge makes a determination on summary offences. There is no jury participating. 


As much as both summary and indictable offences represent violations of the law, severity, penalties, trial procedures, legal process, and court jurisdictions differ. Contact criminal lawyers to interpret the different legal rights and potential consequences when involved in a legal action.