Within Victoria’s Court System, there are several different courts and tribunals. Their role is to interpret the law, settle disputes, and impose penalties on those that have broken the law.
The courts in Victoria are the:
- Magistrates’ Court
- County Court
- Supreme Court
- Children’s Court
- Coroners Court
- Neighbourhood Justice Centre
Each court and tribunal with Victoria’s Court System has jurisdiction or area of law and monetary limits that is heard in that court. The first level of the Victoria court system is the Magistrates’ Court followed by the County Court, then the Supreme Court. There are also speciality courts and tribunals such as the ones noted below.
With over 50 locations across regional Victoria, the first level of the Victorian court system, the Magistrates’ Court deals with most legal disputes. Typically each case is heard by a judicial officer and no jury is involved.
Accordingly, the Magistrates’ Court can hear matters pertaining to:
- traffic offences,
- minor assaults,
- property damage,
- offensive behaviour,
- civil matters,
- and more.
The Magistrates’ Court has the authority to decide most disputes about money or property typically up to the value of $100,000. Specialised areas of the Magistrates’ Court include the Family Violence Court, the Drug Court, and the Koori Court.
The second level of the Victorian court system, the County Court hears more serious civil and criminal matters before a judge and/or jury. Matters such as armed robbery, dangerous driving sex offences and civil disputes involving more than $100,000 are heard in the County Court.
If a decision made in the Magistrates’ Court is appealed, it typically goes before a County Court. The judge in the County Court can decide whether to agree with the magistrate’s decision or make a different decision.
The main County Court is in the centre of Melbourne; however, County Court judges also visit regional Victoria to hear cases.
The highest court in Victoria, the Supreme Court has two divisions:
- Trial Division – hears very serious criminal cases, like murder, and deals with large disputes over $200,000.
- Court of Appeal – hears appeals about decisions made in the County Court or the Trial Division of the Supreme Court.
The High Court of Australia is the only court above the Supreme Court.
Within Victoria’s Court System, matters involving children and young people under the age of 18 are heard in the Children’s Court. It has two divisions:
- Criminal Division – hears all charges except offences resulting in death or attempted murder, which must be heard in an adult court.
- Family Division – hears protection applications, breaches of welfare orders, changes to welfare orders, irreconcilable differences applications and applications for permanent care. Applications for family violence and personal safety intervention orders are also taken care of in this division.
For a matter to be heard in the Children’s Court, the person must have been between the ages of 10 and under 18 at the time of the offence or under 19 at when their proceeding commences.
The Coroners Court is the court within Victoria’s Court System, investigates the causes of deaths and fires. Coroners can only investigate deaths that are unexpected, unnatural, violent or occurred as a result of an accident or injury.
The coroner will try to find out why the death happened. Sometimes the coroner makes recommendations to help stop similar fatalities or fires. A coroner does not investigate every death in Victoria.
Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT)
Tribunals are less formal than courts and aim to help two parties reach an agreement and settle their dispute fairly.
Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal deals with a wide range of common legal disputes. Some common categories of matters VCAT hears are disputes about debt, guardianship, property ownership, goods and services issues and discrimination.
Getting legal advice
No matter which level of court or tribunal within Victoria’s Court System will be hearing your case, it is essential to obtain legal advice before you make decisions or present your evidence. Going to court can be a confusing and stressful experience which is why having an experienced Melbourne lawyer beside you can help.
Gallant Law has extensive experience representing countless clients in Geelong and Melbourne before various tribunals, departments, and agencies. Therefore, our clients can be confident they will receive tailored legal services for strong, resolute defences when they work with one of our local lawyers. Contact Gallant Law on (03) 9070 9885 for a free initial phone consultation.
Servicing Geelong, Melbourne and regional Victoria with compassionate and comprehensive legal advice, Gallant Law are lawyers you can count on when navigating the court system.