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QUEENSLAND COURTS THAT DEAL WITH CRIMINAL CASES 

For adults, there are essentially four Courts where criminal matters can be heard. The law provides the types of offences and matters each court can deal with. For example, only the Supreme Court can hear a criminal trial/sentence for the offence of murder or attempted murder.

 

In some circumstances, the law also provides that the accused or the Prosecution has the right to elect which Court they want to hear a matter.

 

THE MAGISTRATES COURT  

 

All criminal cases start in the Magistrates Court, even if they must ultimately be dealt with in the District or Supreme Courts.

 

The Magistrates Court hears:

  • Bail applications.
  • Committal hearings for offences that are to be dealt with in the District or Supreme Courts.
  • Pleas of guilty (sentence hearings).
  • Trials (summary hearings).

 

Who hears cases in the Magistrates Court?

The judicial officer who sits in Court and hears matters in the Magistrates Court is a “Magistrate”. When addressing a Magistrate in Court you refer to them as “Your Honour” not Sir/Madam or Your Worship. In Court Magistrates do not wear wigs, but they will often wear a black robe.

Unlike the District and Supreme Courts, there are no juries in the Magistrates Court. Therefore, if your matter proceeds to trial in the Magistrates Court, it is a Magistrate who determines if you are guilty beyond reasonable doubt of having committed the offence/s.

 

What types of offences does the Magistrates Court deal with?

The Magistrates Court deals with a wide variety of offences, including offences such as:

  • Assaults. 
  • Drug offences.
  • Frauds. 
  • Property offences such as burglaries or break and enters of premises.
  • Public nuisances.
  • Shop lifting.

 

What is the maximum penalty the Magistrates Court can impose?

The maximum penalty the Magistrates Court can impose is 3 years imprisonment (this means a Magistrate can not sentence a person to more than 3 years imprisonment for any offence).

 

THE DISTRICT COURT

 

The District Court is the next Court above the Magistrates Court in the hierarchy of Courts.

 

The District Court hears:

  • Appeals from the Magistrates Court.
  • Pleas of guilty (sentence hearings).
  • Pre-trial hearings.
  • Trials. 

 

Who hears matters in the District Court?

The judicial officer who sits in Court and hears matters in the District Court is a “Judge”. When addressing a Judge in Court you refer to them as “Your Honour” not Sir/Madam or Your Worship. In Court Judges generally wear a wig and dress in a black robe.

 

Trials in the District Court can be heard before a Judge and jury or a Judge alone.

 

If your matter proceeds to trial before a jury, then it is the jury who ultimately determines if you are guilty beyond reasonable doubt of having committed the offence/s. The Judge will decide all other issues, including what penalty to impose if you are found guilty.

 

If your trial is heard before a Judge alone, then it is the Judge who will determine all issues including if you are guilty and what penalty to impose if they find you guilty.

 

What types of offences does the District Court hear?

The District Court deals with a number of serious offences, including offences such as:

  • Arson.
  • Frauds where the value involved is greater than $30,000.00.
  • Grievous bodily harm.
  • Robbery.
  • Sexual offences including rape.
  • Violent offences such as torture. 

 

What is the maximum penalty the District Court can impose?

The maximum penalty the District Court can impose is 20 years imprisonment (this means a Judge in the District Court can not sentence a person to more than 20 years imprisonment for any offence).

 

THE SUPREME COURT 

 

The Supreme Court deals with the most serious of criminal offences in Queensland.

 

The Supreme Court hears such matters as:

  • Bail applications where persons have been denied bail by the Magistrates Court or are seeking bail for the offence of murder.
  • Pleas of guilty (sentence hearings).
  • Pre-trial hearings.`
  • Trials. 

 

Who hears cases in the Supreme Court?

 

The judicial officer who sits in Court and hears matters in the Supreme Court is a “Judge”. When addressing a Judge in Court you refer to them as “Your Honour” not Sir/Madam or Your Worship. In Court Judges generally wear a wig and dress in a black robe.

 

Trials in the Supreme Court can be heard before a Judge and jury or a Judge alone.

 

If your matter proceeds to trial before a jury, then it is the jury who ultimately determines if you are guilty beyond reasonable doubt of having committed the offence/s. The Judge will decide all other issues, including what penalty to impose if you are found guilty.

If your trial is heard before a Judge alone, then it is the Judge who will determine all issues including if you are guilty and what penalty to impose if they find you guilty.

 

What types of offences does the Supreme Court hear?

The Supreme Court deals with the most serious offences, including offences such as: –

  • Murder. 
  • Manslaughter. 
  • Trafficking in Schedule 1 Dangerous Drugs such as cocaine, heroin and methylamphetamine etc.

 

THE QUEENSLAND COURT OF APPEAL 

This Court is the highest court in Queensland. The Court is part of the Supreme Court that sits as the Court of Appeal. This Court hears appeals from the Supreme and District Courts. For example, if you were sentenced in the District Court or Supreme Court and you wanted to appeal your sentence, then you would lodge your appeal in this Court.

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