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This article was written by Fernanda Dahlstrom - Content Editor - Brisbane

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.

The Western Australian Supreme Court

The Western Australian Supreme Court is the highest court in Western Australia. It deals with the most serious criminal offences, such as murder and manslaughter as well as complex civil matters and civil matters where the amount in dispute is over $750,000. The Supreme Court also hears applications for injunctions and other forms of relief as well as all wills matters and matters concerning the administration of deceased estates.

It also hears appeals against decisions by Magistrates in criminal matters.


Criminal trials in the WA Supreme Court are generally heard by a judge and jury. The jury is composed of 12 people chosen at random from the electoral roll and summonsed to attend court for jury selection.

Almost all civil trials in Western Australia are heard by judge alone.

Criminal matters

The Supreme Court hears serious indictable criminal matters. These matters begin in the Magistrates Court or Children Court and proceed through a committal hearing. If there is enough evidence to support a finding of guilt, the matter is committed to the Supreme Court. The accused is then either sentenced or tried.

When a person pleads not guilty in the Western Australian Supreme Court, they will have to stand trial before a jury. It usually takes quite some time for a matter that is taken to trial to be finalised – from a few months to over a year.  This is because criminal matters that go to trial usually proceed through a number of other proceedings first. This often includes a bail application and a voir dire – a proceeding held to determine whether a particular piece of evidence is admissible or should be excluded. It is also because trials take a long time and the court diary can often be booked up months in advance.

When a person is found guilty of offences in the Supreme Court, they can be sentenced to much more severe penalties than the Magistrates Court can impose.

Supreme Court criminal matters are prosecuted by the Department of Public Prosecution (DPP) also known as the Crown.

Civil matters

Actions in tort law, contract law and commercial law are dealt with in the WA Supreme Court. The WA Supreme Court also deals with all matters involving the administration of deceased estates. This includes applications for probate, where the person named as executor in a will is seeking the authority to take possession of assets and distribute them; applications for letters of administration with the will annexed, where a person has died with a will that does not appoint an executor or appoints someone who cannot or will not act; and letters of administration, where a person has died without a will and the court is asked to make a grant of letters of administration to an appropriate person.

Court of Appeal

The WA Court of Appeal hears appeals against decisions by a single judge of the Supreme Court as well as appeals against decision of the District Court and other courts and tribunals in the state. It hears criminal appeals against sentence and against conviction.

Some appeals require leave to appeal from the court while others do not.

Appeals in the Court of Appeal are usually decided by three judges, although occasionally an appeal will be heard by two judges or by a single judge.

Decisions of the Court of Appeal can be appealed to the High Court of Australia. The High Court’s decision is final and binding on all Australian courts.

Attending court

If you are required to attend the WA Supreme Court for a matter, make sure you arrive well before the time the matter is listed to be heard. Ensure you know which court your matter is going to be heard in and have your phone switched off or on silent before you enter the courtroom. If the judge asks you a question, stand up when they are speaking to you and address the judge as ‘Your Honour.’

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


If you suspect that you may be under investigation, or if you have been charged with an offence, it is vital to get competent legal advice as early as possible. Our lawyers are highly specialised in criminal law and will be able to guide you through the process while dealing with the various authorities related to your matter.


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