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Melbourne Magistrates Court

The Melbourne Magistrates Court is located at 233 William St, Melbourne. There are also Magistrates Courts in numerous Melbourne suburbs, including Broadmeadows, Werribee and Dandenong. The Melbourne Magistrates Court deals with summary crime matters (where the defendant is an adult), civil matters, and intervention order applications. Criminal matters where the defendant is a juvenile are dealt with by the Children’s Court.

Magistrate Court matters are decided by a single magistrate.

Criminal matters

The vast majority of criminal matters are dealt with in the Magistrates Court, which hears all summary crime matters and many indictable matters. Strictly indictable matters, such as murder, which are very serious and carry significant penalties must be dealt with in the Supreme Court.

The Melbourne Magistrates Court hears summary criminal matters such as trespass and drink driving. It also hears indictable matters such as stealing and assault, when parties consent to the matter being dealt with summarily (in the Magistrates Court). When indictable offences are to be finalised in the higher courts, the Magistrates Court is responsible for conducting committal proceedings.

The Melbourne Magistrates Court also has a specialist division known as the Koori Court, which deals with indigenous defendants who are pleading guilty where it is appropriate for the matter to be dealt with by the Koori Court and where the defendant consents to this. The Koori Court is comprised of a magistrate as well as a panel of indigenous elders who strive to deal with offending in ways that are culturally appropriate and which a balance the needs of the offender with the needs of the broader community. It seeks to bring about outcomes that are meaningful and encourage offenders to take responsibility for their actions without becoming alienated from their community or being overly criminalised.

The Melbourne Magistrates Court also deals with applications for bail and the issue of warrants.

Drug court

The Melbourne Magistrates Court also operates a post-sentence program to rehabilitate and treat offenders with drug and alcohol problems. The Drug Court imposes and administers Drug Treatment Orders (DTOs).

A DTO consists of a period of imprisonment followed by a period of treatment and supervision while living in the community. During this period the defendant is required to engage in drug and alcohol treatment, education and assessment, attend drug court regularly and submit to alcohol and drug testing as well as complying with conditions such as living at a particular address and abiding by a curfew. The participant is supervised by a Drug Court Magistrate while on a DTO.

Civil matters

The Melbourne Magistrates Court hears civil matters where the amount in dispute is below $100,000. These include credit and debt matters, actions in tort, breach of contract and equitable relief.

Civil matters involving workplaces, traffic accidents and medical negligence as well as claims made under a will are dealt with in the County Court.

Intervention orders

The Melbourne Magistrates Court deals with two types of intervention orders. These are personal safety intervention orders and family violence intervention orders. A person can apply for a personal safety intervention order if they fear violence from any other person. A person (or the police) can apply for a family violence intervention order if they fear violence from a person that they are in a family relationship with. This includes a partner, parent, sibling or member of one’s household.

An intervention order application can be consented to without admissions, or contested. If it is contested, the matter will proceed to a hearing where both parties will have the opportunity to call evidence and make submissions as to why the order should or should not be made.

If an intervention order is made and the respondent breaches the conditions of the order, they may be charged with a criminal offence.

Attending court

If you are required to attend the Melbourne Magistrates Court for any matter, it is important that you come prepared and that you are aware of court etiquette. The daily court list can be long and your matter will not necessarily be heard at the time it is listed so you should come prepared to be at court all day. If you have children, make arrangements for them so that they do not have to wait at court with you.

Check the court list when you arrive (or online) to see which courtroom your matter will be heard in. When attending court, you should dress neatly and conservatively. Make sure you remove any hat or sunglasses before entering the courtroom and ensure that your phone is switched off or turned to silent. It is a good idea to have a pen and paper with you so that you can write down any information you are given.  

You should bow or nod to the court when you enter the courtroom as a sign of respect. If you need to address the magistrate, call him or her “Your Honour”.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

Fernanda Dahlstrom

This article was written by Fernanda Dahlstrom

Fernanda Dahlstrom has a Bachelor of Laws, a Bachelor of Arts and a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice. She has also completed a Master’s in Writing and Literature. Fernanda practised law for eight years, working in criminal defence, child protection and domestic violence law in the Northern Territory and in family law in Queensland.

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