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The Victorian Supreme Court

The Victorian Supreme Court is the highest court in Victoria.  It deals with serious criminal matters, complex civil matters and civil matters where the amount in dispute is more than $100,000. The Victorian Supreme Court also sits as the Court of Appeal, which hears appeals from the Country Court and the Supreme Court.

Victorian Supreme Court – Criminal division

The Supreme Court has original jurisdiction in serious criminal matters such as murder, corporate offences and conspiracy charges. It also deals with bail applications and breaches of Supreme Court orders.

Criminal matters that must be finalised in the Supreme Court begin in the Magistrates or Children’s Court, where they proceed through a committal hearing, and then are transferred to the Supreme Court for listing for a trial or for sentencing.

Criminal trials are decided by a jury of 12 people chosen at random from the electoral roll.

Victorian Supreme Court – Civil division

The Supreme Court has unlimited jurisdiction in civil matters such as property, tort and contract law.

The Supreme Court also has exclusive jurisdiction in dealing with grants of authority to administer deceased estates. This includes grants of probate and grants of letters of administration. This Supreme Court list also deals with  breaches of trust and equitable obligations. 

Court of Appeal

The Court of Appeal is composed of three or five judges of the Supreme Court. It hears appeals against decisions in criminal and civil matters decided by the County Court, the Supreme Court Trial Division and the Victorian Civil and Administrative Appeals Tribunal (VCAT).

Criminal appeals

A decision in a criminal matter can be appealed to the Court of Appeal if the defendant was convicted and sentenced in the County Court or in the Supreme Court and wants to appeal against the conviction, against the sentence, or both.

The DPP can appeal against a sentence imposed in the County Court or in the Supreme Court to the Court of Appeal.

A party can appeal against a decision made on an interlocutory matter during criminal proceedings in the County Court or Supreme Court.

Civil appeals

The Court of Appeal hears appeals against decisions made in civil matters by a judge of the Supreme Court, a judge of the Country Court, by an Associate Judge or by the president or vice president of VCAT.

Most civil appeals require the court’s leave to appeal. However, leave is not required to appeal:

  • a decision to refuse an action that challenges the legality of someone’s detention (habeus corpus)
  • a decision made under the Serious Offenders Act.

Time limits apply to lodging appeals. An appeal may need to be started within 42 days or 28 days of the decision being appealed, depending on the type of appeal.

Commercial Court

The commercial court is composed of specialist judges who decide commercial disputes. It deals with complex commercial disputes including disputes where remedies are being sought under the Corporations Act, commercial proceedings relating to insurance, intellectual property or banking and finance and taxation recovery proceedings.

Victorian Supreme Court Mediation Centre

The Victorian Supreme Court has a Mediation Centre where associated judges and judicial registrars, who are trained and experienced mediators, conduct mediation sessions.

The court can make an order referring a matter to mediation at its own initiative. Parties can also apply to the court for an order referring all or part of a matter to mediation.

Parties to disputes are encouraged to come to a resolution without going through litigation.

Costs court

The Costs Court decides matters relating to costs arising out of court proceedings. These include disputes between lawyers and clients over the amount charged for legal services and disputes about the amount a successful party can recover from an unsuccessful party after litigation has concluded.

Attending court

If you are required to attend the Victorian Supreme Court, it is important to arrive well before the time the matter is listed to be heard. It is advisable to dress neatly and conservatively, to remove any hats or sunglasses and to ensure your phone is switched off or on silent before entering a courtroom.  If you need to address the judge, call him or her “Your Honour”.

Filing fees

If you are initiating a matter in the Supreme Court, it is likely there will be filing fees associated with this. These will need to be paid when initiating documents are filed. If you are experiencing financial hardship, you may be able to have these fees waived upon supplying evidence to the court (such as a health care card).

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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