Jurisdiction of the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria
The Magistrates’ Court of Victoria hears and determines matters relating to summary offences and indictable offences triable summarily. It also runs committal proceedings in relation to indictable offences. If you have been charged with a criminal offence, please contact our defence experts at Sher Criminal Lawyers immediately for specialist legal advice and representation.
What is The Jurisdiction of the Magistrates’ Court?
The Victorian criminal court system has a hierarchy which determines which types of cases can be heard in each court. The Magistrates’ Court hears the majority of criminal cases in Victoria. However, it’s jurisdiction may be confusing for people who are not experienced in the law.
All criminal cases in Victoria are commenced in the Magistrates’ Court, but:
- Only ‘summary offences’ and ‘indictable offences triable summarily’ can be heard and finalised in the Magistrates’ Court;
- ‘Indictable offences’ proceed through the committal stream in the Magistrates’ Court before being sent to the County or Supreme Court for trial and finalisation.
If you have been charged with a criminal offence, please contact our defence experts at Sher Criminal Lawyers immediately for specialist legal advice and representation.
Matters Heard and Finalised in the Magistrates’ Court
Because the Magistrates’ Court has the power to hear and finalise less serious criminal matters, it is known as the summary jurisdiction. The two categories of offences that can be heard and determined in the Magistrates’ Court are:
- Summary offences; and
- Indictable offences triable summarily.
Summary offences carry a maximum penalty of up to 2 years imprisonment and/or a fine not exceeding 240 penalty units for a single charge. However, some pieces of criminal legislation might prescribe greater penalties to certain summary offences. Examples of summary offences in Victoria include disorderly behaviour, drink driving and common assault.
Indictable offences triable summarily may also be heard in the Magistrates’ Court under certain circumstances. That is, an indictable offence may be heard summarily if:
- The charge carries a maximum term of imprisonment not exceeding 10 years or a fine of not more than 1200 units or both; or
- The charge is referred to in schedule 2 of the Criminal Procedure Act 2009 (Vic).
Further, a summary hearing for indictable offences can only proceed in the Magistrates’ Court if:
- The court believes that it is appropriate to hear and determine the charge summarily; and
- The accused consents to having their charges heard summarily (s29 CPA 2009).
The Sentencing Act 1991 (Vic) restricts the maximum penalty that the Magistrates’ Court can impose in any criminal matter:
- 2 years’ imprisonment for a single offence;
- 5 years’ imprisonment for multiple offences; and/or
- A fine not exceeding 500 penalty units for individuals convicted of an indictable offence tried summarily;
- A fine not exceeding 2,500 penalty units for corporations convicted of an indictable offence tried summarily.
In Victoria, the value of one penalty unit is around $165.
Committal Proceedings in the Magistrates’ Court
Indictable offence matters are commenced in the Magistrates Court through a process known as ‘committal proceedings’. During the committal proceedings, the Magistrates’ Court considers the evidence against the accused before ordering them to face trial in either the County or Supreme Court.
Committal proceedings in the Magistrates’ Court may consist of:
- Filing Hearing
- Committal Case Conference
- Committal Mention
- Contested Committal Hearing
Committal proceedings may result in one of several different outcomes depending on the circumstances:
- If at the end of the committal proceedings the Magistrate concludes that a jury could find the accused guilty based on the evidence, the accused will be committed to stand trial before a jury in the County or Supreme Court.
- If at the end of the committal proceedings the Magistrate concludes that there is not sufficient evidence to support a conviction, the charges may be dismissed.
- If the accused pleads guilty during the committal proceedings, the Magistrate may order that the matter be adjourned for a guilty plea in the County or Supreme Court.
- If the defence applies to have the matter heard summarily in the Magistrates’ Court, the matter may be adjourned for a summary jurisdiction application to be heard.
How We Can Help You in the Magistrates’ Court
Sher Criminal Lawyers regularly advises and represents clients facing criminal charges in the Magistrates’ Court. We appear in Courts around Melbourne on an almost daily basis and also attend Court in regional Victoria when requested. Because we interact with the Courts so regularly, we have an in-depth knowledge of the processes, Magistrates, prosecutors and staff in each Court. We utilise this knowledge to our client’s advantage when planning their legal strategy.
We have offices located in the Melbourne CBD and Moorabbin and it is easy for us to quickly attend Court anywhere in the city or suburbs. Clients also appreciate the fact that they can easily attend our office should they wish to speak to us in person.
If you have been charged with a criminal offence, please contact Sher Criminal Lawyers immediately. We are available 24/7 and offer free consultations by way of Zoom, Facetime or in person at our Melbourne and Moorabbin offices. Our specialist defence team is here to help you secure the best possible outcome in your matter by applying our expert knowledge of the criminal law and the Victorian justice system.