Courts & tribunals

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There are many different courts and tribunals in Victoria. Each court or tribunal is an independent body that works to interpret legislation and to determine penalties and compensation.

The different courts and tribunals deal with different kinds of legislation 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 when they interpret legislation become 'precedents'. This means that the next time a similar situation is encountered, earlier decisions about the same matters can be used to determine the outcome. The record of precedents is often referred to as 'common law'.

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
  • The Court of Appeal

The Trial Division hears civil and criminal cases.

The Court of Appeal deals with matters including applications for new trials and appeals made against decisions in the following courts:

  • The Trial Division
  • The County Court of Victoria
  • The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT)

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 has an appeals division.

The criminal cases that the County Court of Victoria deals with include most criminal offences (excluding murder and attempted murder, child destruction, treason-related issues and certain types of conspiracy charges).

Typical cases considered by the County Court include drug-related offences, rape charges and serious assaults.

The civil cases that the County Court of Victoria generally deals with involve compensation for injury or death. In these cases the court has an unlimited jurisdiction. In other civil cases, like issues dealing with breach of contract, the County Court can only impose penalties up to $200,000.

The Appeals Division of the County Court deals with appeals concerning criminal judgements that have come from the Magistrates' Court of Victoria, or judgements that have been made by magistrates within the criminal and family divisions of 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, matters relating to family violence and family law (new window), and the Infringements Court (new window), which deals with fines and penalties, such as parking fines.

There are fifty-one locations where the Magistrates' Court sits throughout Victoria. It sits every day in most metropolitan areas and major country towns, and 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 dealing with cases involving children and young people.

The Family Division hears applications relating to the protection and care of children and young people at risk of harm. The Family Division also hears applications for intervention orders.

The Criminal Division hears charges against young people 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 and videos of a criminal case and an intervention order case. The videos are also available with Auslan interpretation for deaf people.

Other Organisations

Various 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. It focuses on the rehabilitation and treatment of the offender's drug problem.

The Coroner's Court of Victoria (new window) has the responsibility for investigating unexpected deaths in order to discover their causes and to make recommendations about improving health and safety standards across the state.

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.

Jury duty

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 are chosen it's your legal obligation 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.

Links

Courts & Tribunals Victoria
Another helpful overview of the roles and relationships between the various courts and tribunals operating in Victoria.

Courts & Tribunals Victoria - Jury Service
A general overview of jury service, including FAQs about service with the Supreme and County courts.