Communtity Law Manual | Criminal Courts | Overview of how the criminal courts work

Overview of how the criminal courts work


There are four categories of criminal offences (as explained below), with Category 1 offences being the least serious and Category 4 the most serious. The category that the offence you're charged with falls into determines what the process will be, and also which court will deal with your case.

There are two basic procedural tracks that a criminal case can follow: a judge-alone trial or a jury trial. Whether you can have a jury trial depends on how serious your case is.

Which category the offence comes under will also be the main factor in deciding whether your case is dealt with in the District Court (where most cases are dealt with) or the High Court.

You'll have the right to choose a jury trial if the offence you're charged with carries a maximum penalty of two or more years in prison – in other words if it's a category 3 or 4 case.

Note: The four offence categories were introduced in 2013 when the Criminal Procedure Act 2012 came into force. Before that, the processes in the criminal courts were more complicated, and there was a distinction that doesn't exist anymore, between “summary” and “indictable” offences.

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