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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 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 matters related to probate and the administration of a deceased estate and all matters concerning the division of real property.

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’s Court and proceed through a committal hearing. Unlike other states, a committal hearing in Western Australia is largely administrative, and does not require the court to make any findings as to the merits of the matter. The court will simply confirm that disclosure has been served, and that both parties are ready to have the matter committed to the superior court.

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 hearing 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 convicted of a crime in the Supreme Court, they are liable to the maximum penalties as set out in the Criminal Code.

Supreme Court criminal matters are prosecuted by the Department of Public Prosecution (DPP) on behalf of the State of Western Australia.

Civil Matters

Actions in tort law, contract law and commercial law may be dealt with in the Supreme Court.

The 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; and
  • 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.

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 decisions of the District Court. It hears criminal appeals against sentence and conviction.

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

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.

Courtney Ashton - Associate - Perth

This article was written by Courtney Ashton - Associate - Perth

Courtney holds a Bachelor of Laws and a Bachelor of Criminology and Justice from Edith Cowan University and a Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice from the College of Law. Courtney is a dedicated practitioner who enjoys a challenge and has competently completed many traffic and summary jurisdiction matters. Courtney enjoys advocacy and has appeared in a number of drink driving,...

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