Courts & tribunals
There are many different courts and tribunals in Victoria. Each one is an independent body that works to interpret the law and work out compensation and penalties (like fines or imprisonment).
Each court or tribunal deals with different kinds of laws or disputes. They can also work together to come to a final decision. Sometimes a decision made by one court or tribunal is reconsidered in another court or tribunal.
Decisions made by courts can become "precedents". This means the next time a similar situation happens, earlier decisions about the same matters can be used to determine the outcome. The record of precedents is often referred to as "common law".
For more information about the different kinds of law that operate in Victoria (and Australia), visit our Types of laws page.
Below is an overview of the different Victorian courts and tribunals.
The Supreme Court
The Supreme Court of Victoria (new window) is the highest court in Victoria. It hears cases that cover most civil and criminal matters.
The Supreme Court is divided into two divisions:
- the Trial Division, which hears civil and criminal cases
- the Court of Appeal, which deals with things like applications for new trials and appeals made against the decisions of other courts and tribunals.
Most Supreme Court cases are heard in Melbourne, but judges also travel throughout Victoria to hear cases.
The County Court
The County Court of Victoria (new window) is the middle-level Victorian court. It considers civil and criminal cases and also has an appeals division.
The County Court deals with most kinds of criminal offences in Victoria. Typical criminal cases include drug offences and serious assaults. The civil cases the County Court of Victoria deals with usually involve compensation for injury or death.
The Appeals Division of the County Court deals with appeals about criminal judgements that have come from the Magistrates' Court or the Children's Court.
Most County Court cases are heard in Melbourne, but judges travel throughout Victoria to hear cases.
The Magistrates' Court
The Magistrates' Court of Victoria (new window) is the lowest-level Victorian court. It is divided into areas of responsibility that include:
- civil matters
- criminal matters
- family violence and family law (new window)
- fines and penalties, like parking fines (new window).
The Magistrates' Court sits throughout Victoria. It sits every day in most metropolitan areas and major country towns. In smaller locations it sits on days that are organised beforehand.
The Children's Court
The Children's Court of Victoria (new window) has two divisions:
- The Family Division hears applications relating to the protection and care of children and young people at risk of harm. It also hears applications for intervention orders.
- The Criminal Division hears charges against young people who were aged between 10 and 17 (inclusive) at the time the alleged offence was committed.
The Children's Court website includes a virtual court site (new window) with information about coming to court.
Other courts and tribunals
Other Victorian courts and tribunals exist that deal with more specific matters.
- The Drug Court of Victoria (new window) is a part of the Magistrates' Court that specifically deals with offenders with drug-related problems, focusing on the rehabilitation and treatment of offenders.
- The Coroner's Court of Victoria (new window) investigates unexpected deaths and makes recommendations about health and safety standards in Victoria.
- The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) (new window) deals with disputes including consumer-related issues, discrimination and tenants rights. It also assists with disputes between individuals and governments.
When a case comes before the Supreme or County courts of Victoria it will be heard either by a judge and a jury, or by a judge alone.
The members of a jury are selected at random from the Victorian State Electoral Roll. If you get chosen for jury duty you legally have to report to the appropriate court for jury service.
If there's a reason that you can't attend jury duty, the courts allow for exemptions under certain circumstances.
Courts & Tribunals Victoria's Jury Service page (new window) has more information about jury service, including answers to FAQs.