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Criminal courts in Western Australia

The judiciary presides over the courts in Western Australia and delivers justice to the community through sentencing in criminal cases and rulings in civil cases.

Judges and magistrates are bound by their oath and affirmation to administer justice for all Western Australians impartially and fairly, without fear or favour.

There are different levels of courts in Western Australia, with the highest State court being the Supreme Court. Courts operate at more than 123 locations in the State and all court sittings and tribunal hearings are open to the public, except where laws dictate otherwise.

There are four types of criminal courts in Western Australia:

  • The Supreme Court is the State's highest court, with responsibility for both criminal and civil matters. It deals with very serious criminal charges, such as wilful murder, murder, armed robbery and serious breaches of Commonwealth drug enforcement laws. It is also the main appeal court of the State, hearing appeals from single judge decisions of the Supreme Court and from lower courts and various tribunals.

  • The District Court deals with serious criminal offences including serious assaults, breaking and entering, stealing and receiving.

  • The Magistrates Court deals with adults, aged 18 or over, who appear in court after being charged with a criminal offence.

  • The Children's Court deals with offences alleged to have been committed by young people between the ages of 10 and 17 years (inclusive).

Courts operate in a hierarchical system. This means that a court is bound by any decisions of a higher court.

In Western Australia, the hierarchy moves upwards from the Magistrates Court to the District Court, and then to the Supreme Court. To go above the Supreme Court, a case must go to the (federal) High Court of Australia, the ultimate court from which there is no appeal.

Last updated: 18-Feb-2013

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