Jurisdiction of the Magistrates’ Court
Indictable charges must go to the County or Supreme Court, unless:
- The maximum penalty is 10 years or less; or
- There is an exception listed under schedule 2 of the Criminal Procedure Act 2009.
An example of an exception would be the charge of Trafficking a Drug of Dependence to a Child. It carries a maximum of 20 years imprisonment and yet can be heard summarily (in the Magistrates’ Court).
The only other further conditions on an indictable offence being heard in the Magistrates’ Court are that:
- The defendant must consent to the matter be heard in that jurisdiction; and
- The Magistrate must deem the matter to be appropriate for the jurisdiction.
The maximum sentence a Magistrate can impose is two years (for a single charge) and five years (for aggregate charges), regardless of the maximum penalty the charge attracts.
e.g. Theft (section 74 of the Crimes Act) carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment. But a Magistrate hearing a single charge involving theft can only impose a maximum penalty of two years. If the Magistrate was hearing two charges of theft together, then the Magistrate could only impose a maximum penalty of five years.
Some charges have conditions in relation to whether or not they can be heard in the Magistrates’ Court.
In the above example, Theft can be only be heard in the Magistrates’ Court if the amount allegedly stolen is less than $100 000. Any amount over $100 000 must be heard in the County Court or Supreme Court.
For more information on summary offences, please click here.