In Western Australia there are different criminal court processes depending on the circumstances in which a person is attending court.
For example, there are different court processes for a person entering a plea of guilty, for a matter proceeding to a contested hearing, or making an application for bail.
There are also different processes for initiating or responding to an appeal against a conviction or a sentence and establishing whether a defendant is fit to plead.
The Court Hierarchy
The courts operate in a hierarchical system. This means that a court is bound by any decisions of a higher court. In Western Australia, the hierarchy moves upwards from the Magistrates Court to the District Court, the Supreme Court and then the Court of Appeal. To go above the Court of Appeal, a case must go to the High Court of Australia, from which there is no appeal.
There are five types of criminal courts in Western Australia:
- The Court of Appeal is the state’s highest court. It is responsible for hearing appeals from the superior courts (Supreme Court and District Court), both in the criminal and civil jurisdiction.
- The Supreme Court has responsibility for both criminal and civil matters. This court deals with very serious criminal charges such as wilful murder, murder, armed robbery and serious breaches of commonwealth drug laws. The court also has appellate jurisdiction hearing criminal appeals from the Magistrates Court.
- The District Court deals with serious criminal offences including serious assaults, breaking and entering and stealing and receiving;
- The Magistrates Court deals with adults who appear in court after being charged with a criminal offence; and
- The Children’s Court deals with offences alleged to have been committed by young people between the ages of 10 and 17 years (inclusive).
This section of the site contains information about court processes in WA.