In Victoria, three courts hear criminal cases – the Magistrates’ Court, County Court and Supreme Court. The court your case will be heard in will depend on the charges against you.
The Magistrates’ Court
The criminal jurisdiction of the Magistrates’ Court hears and determines all summary offences and some indictable offences, as well as conducting committal hearings and dealing with prosecutions by other agencies including local councils, VicRoads, Office of Corrections, Department of Primary Industry.
Charges are heard before a Magistrate who determines guilt or innocence and the penalty. Before finding a person guilty of criminal offences, the Magistrate must be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt of the person’s guilt.
A party to a hearing in the Magistrate’s Court can appeal the decision in the County Court
There are 40 Magistrates’ Courts across metropolitan Melbourne and throughout Victoria.
For more information about the Magistrates’ Court, see www.magistratescourt.vic.gov.au
The County Court
The County Court of Victoria is the middle tier of Victoria’s court hierarchy and has a criminal, civil and appeals jurisdiction.
In relation to criminal charges, the County Court generally hears indictable offences, such as drug trafficking and associated offences, serious assaults, serious theft, sex offences such as rape, and fraud.
Criminal trials are heard by a judge and jury of 12 people. The role of the judge is to ensure that the trial proceeds fairly and to sentence people found guilty.
The County Court also determines appeals from the Magistrates’ Court. These appeals are heard by a single judge without a jury, and cannot be further appealed to the Supreme Court.
Matters that originate in the County Court may be appealed in the Court of Appeal, Supreme Court of Victoria.
The County Court is located at 250 William Street, Melbourne. While most cases are heard in Melbourne, judges hear and determine cases at locations across Victoria. Sittings held in the country are called circuit sittings.
For more information about the County Court, see www.countycourt.vic.gov.au
The Supreme Court
The Supreme Court is Victoria’s superior court and comprises the Court of Appeal and the Trial Division.
Within the Trial Division is the Criminal Division of the Supreme Court. The Criminal Division hears the most serious crimes, such as murder, attempted murder and treason.
Criminal trials are heard by a judge and a jury of 12 people. The role of the judge is to ensure that the trial proceeds fairly and to sentence anyone found guilty.
The Court of Appeal of the Supreme Court determines matters, including applications for new trials and appeals against decisions of the Trial Division of the Supreme Court and of the County Court.
The Supreme Court is at 210 William Street, Melbourne. While most cases are heard in Melbourne, judges hear and determine cases at locations across Victoria. Sittings in the country are called circuit sittings.
For more information about the Supreme Court, see www.supremecourt.vic.gov.au