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Intro to the courts & Magistrates’ Court Jurisdiction

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1 Intro to the courts & Magistrates’ Court Jurisdiction
Unit 4 Legal Studies AOS 1- Dispute resolution

2 What is a court hierarchy???
The Australian court system consists of a court hierarchy with a variety of courts, each with different functions and jurisdictions. The term jurisdiction refers to the power that courts have to hear cases arising from particular areas of law. It is the type of cases that courts can hear and adjudicate on, for example, minor cases or more serious cases. Jurisdiction can also refer to the geographical boundaries of a court’s powers. For example, the Supreme Court of Victoria can only hear cases that relate to Victoria.

3 What does the court hierarchy look like?

4 Victorian Court Hierarchy
FEDERAL COURTS Family Court STATE COURTS Coroner’s Court Children’s Court

5 Original & Appellate Jurisdiction
Original Jurisdiction: When a matter is taken to court for the first time, it is known as the court of first instance. The court is sitting in its original jurisdiction. The court has the power to hear the particular case for the first time. Appellate Jurisdiction: If a party to a court case is not happy with the decision and wishes to change it, and there are sufficient grounds, the case can be taken to a higher court on appeal. When the court is hearing an appeal, it is sitting in its appellate jurisdiction. Not all courts can hear appeals. The person bringing the appeal is known as the appellant and the other party is the respondent. There is no jury when a court is sitting in its appellate jurisdiction (hearing an appeal).

6 Indictable vs Summary offences

7 Indictable vs Summary offences
Indictable offences: are the most serious offences. These offences are heard before a judge and jury in either the County or Supreme Court. Eg: Rape, murder, culpable driving, fraud. Summary offences: are less serious offences. These are heard in the Magistrates’ Court by a Magistrate alone. There is no jury. Eg: drink driving, minor assault, speeding, drunk and disorderly.

8 Magistrates’ Court - Function
Lowest court in hierarchy Presided over by an adjudicator referred to as a Magistrate Has original jurisdiction on minor civil & criminal matters No appellate jurisdiction Bail applications, Committal proceedings, Indictable offences tried summarily, warrants. Hears 95% of criminal cases 90% civil cases

9 Original CIVIL jurisdiction

10 Civil Jurisdiction Civil claims up to $10,000
Conciliation and arbitration can be used as dispute resolution methods Conciliation is a processes used whereby the parties or Magistrate can request a pre-hearing conference. A pre-hearing trial utilises conciliation in an attempt to encourage an out-of-court settlement, or for complex issues which may need to be negotiated before the hearing.

11 Arbitration Civil cases claiming compensation of less than $10,000 must be referred to arbitration. Arbitration is a method of resolving disputes without the formal court process. An independent arbitrator (person given the task of presiding over the discussion) will listen to both sides and make a decision that is binding on the parties. The arbitrator is usually a magistrate. In some instances the court registrar will act as an arbitrator. The final decision is binding The intention of arbitration is to reduce the cost and formality of disputes for small claims.

12 Judicial determination Under some circumstances an application can be made to have a case involving less than $10,000 heard by the court with a judge. A case involving complex issue of law Facts of the case are not in dispute Parties involved both agree

13 Original CRIMINAL jurisdiction

14 Criminal Jurisdiction
Summary offences Indictable offences tried summarily Committal proceedings Bail applications and issuing of warrants

15 Summary offences ALL summary offences are heard in the Magistrates’ Court. These are minor offences such as traffic offences. There is no right to trial by jury for these offences

16 Indictable offences tried summarily (IOTS)
More serious offences are known as indictable offences, however the less serious of these offences such as robbery, burglary, and some drug offences can be heard as a summary offence in the Magistrates’ Court. In order for this to occur; the prosecutor or defendant must apply for it to be heard this way, the defendant must agree, and the court must be satisfied that the case is suitable to be heard in this manner.

17 What are the advantages to this???
Matter will be dealt will quickly and inexpensively compared to having it heard in the County Court. If found guilty the maximum sentence the Magistrate can hand down is less than what a County Court can hand down. This means the defendant will receive a reduced sentence is found guilty. Legal representation is not relied upon as heavily in the Magistrates’ Court and is less expensive and less intimidating. Disadvantages? - Tried by judge alone. No jury used as the case is heard in the Magistrates’ Court.

18 Committal Proceedings
Before an indictable case can be heard by either the County or Supreme courts, a committal proceedings must first be conducted in the Magistrates’ Court. The purpose is to determine whether a prima facie case exists against the defendant. That is whether there is sufficient evidence to support a conviction by a jury in a higher court (County or Supreme). This does not mean they are found “guilty” The aim is to reduce costs and delays in the higher more expensive courts.

19 If a Magistrate believes there is enough evidence to support a conviction the defendant will be committed to stand trial in a higher court at a later date. The defendant will either be remanded in custody or released on bail until their trial date. If there is insufficient evidence to support sending the case to trial in a higher court then the case is dismissed and the defendant is free to go. Without having wasted time or money in a higher court.

20 Other matters Issues warrants for arrests, searches, remand, seize property etc. This is a legal document used by the court to authorise a particular act. Hear bail applications. If an application for bail is unsuccessful the Magistrate will order the defendant to be remanded in custody.

21 Appellate jurisdiction
The magistrates’ Court has no appellate jurisdiction as it is the lowest court in the court hierarchy and can therefore cannot hear any appeals.

22 Appeals FROM the Magistrates’ Court
If either party is dissatisfied with the outcome of a case heard in the Magistrates’ Court, they can appeal it to a higher court. Criminal appeals: An appeal based on the leniency or severity of sentence or conviction can be appealed to the County Court. Points of law can be appealed to the Supreme Court. Civil appeals: Appeals cannot be made against the amount of damages (compensation awarded) however either party can appeal to the Supreme Court on a point of law.


24 Review of Magistrates’ Court

25 Learning Activities 1. Complete your A3 court hierarchy chart for the Magistrates’ Court. Include both original criminal and civil jurisdictions, and also outline which courts can be appealed to for cases heard in the Magistrates’ Court. 2. Complete case study on the Magistrates’ Court (handout) 3. Create summaries of key words that might not be familiar to you eg: jurisdiction.

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