Australia’s courts

Australia‘s Courts

Australia has a hierarchical court system.  Each of the courts deals with different matters and has certain powers. In Australia most legal matters are the responsibility of state government, so most courts are state courts.

The Local Court

The lowest court and is sometimes called the Magistrates Court as it is presided over by a magistrate.  Deals with minor criminal matters known as summary offenses and conducts committal proceedings to determine if the police have sufficient evidence for a case to be heard in a higher court. Hears civil matters of more than $3,000 and less than $40,000.

The District Court

Deals with serious criminal and civil law matters.  Presided over by a judge.  In criminal law matters conducts trials that include a jury.  Civil law matters involving between $40,000 and $750,000 are heard in the District Court.

The Supreme Court

The highest court in the state hierarchy. A court of record which means that its decisions can create common law. Civil law matters involving more than $750,000 are heard in the Supreme Court.

An excellent overview of the NSW Criminal Justice System is found at this linkThe NSW Criminal Justice System

The High Court of Australia

The most senior court in Australia.  Its main role is to ensure that law makers doe not breach the constitution.  The High Court also acts as the last court of appeal.  An application can be made to The High Court of Australia to appeal a decision made in state Supreme Court.

This 1 minute clip gives an excellent introduction to the role of the High Court of Australia. Australia\’s High Court

Federal Courts

Hears matters that involve an aspect of federal law including family law, taxation, copyright and company law.  The Family Court of Australia is a federal court.


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