Preliminary inquiry

Filed Under: Criminal Law; Evidence

4 definitions found for this term.
Definitions are presented in the order source books were published (most recent first).


A hearing conducted in accordance with Part XVIII of the Criminal Code, before an accused is placed on trial for an indictable offence. An accused will either be committed for trial or discharged at the end of the preliminary inquiry. Originally, a preliminary inquiry was presumptively required in the case of all indictable offences (although it could be waived), but in its current form, the preliminary inquiry is held on request, will usually be restricted to particular issues, and is only available for offences punishable by fourteen years imprisonment or more.

A hearing held to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to require an accused person to stand trial for an alleged offence. Adults facing serious indictable charges under the Criminal Code generally have the right to a preliminary inquiry. Generally, youths do not have this right. However, young persons charged with murder or other serious offences and who may be subject to an adult sentence, if convicted, generally have the right to a preliminary inquiry and jury trial.


The proceeding at which the Crown must present its evidence against an accused in order to show that it has a tenable case that warrants proceeding to trial. It is presided over by a trial court judge.

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