The Magistrates’ Court of Victoria
233 William Street, Melbourne
The Magistrates’ Court of Victoria has been providing services to the community since 1838. It is headed by the Chief Magistrate who manages the affairs of both metropolitan and country registries. All criminal charges are commenced in the Magistrates’ Court irrespective of seriousness and the Court has jurisdiction to hear civil claims of up to $100,000. Magistrates’ Courts operate several different lists and jurisdictions which handle matters on particular subjects such as family violence, criminal, council infringements etc. There are currently 54 registries operating Victoria wide and the Magistrates’ Court carries the bulk of the criminal/civil cases state wide. Judicial determinations are made by a Magistrate alone, as no juries operate in the Magistrates’ Court. Most of the cases before the Magistrates’ Court are low range criminal offending, bail applications, committal hearings, traffic offences, family violence and civil debt matters.
Criminal cases in which the offender has a serious drug or alcohol problem are handled by the Drug Court. It is a division of the Magistrates’ Court and is based in Dandenong. The Drug Court has the authority to sentence offenders to undertake a drug treatment program instead of remaining incarcerated, although the usual course of action is to suspend the jail sentence so that it remains in force should the accused reoffend by violating any of the conditions imposed by the Drug Court.
Assessment and Referral Court List
The Assessment and Referral Court List is a distinctive list for criminal cases in the Magistrates’ Court, where the offender has a cognitive impairment or mental illness. In such cases, the Court procedure is more relaxed than the regular Magistrates’ Court. The aim of the Assessment and Referral Court List is to address the fundamental reasons that cause mentally ill people to commit crime, and ensure that they have access to the support services they require. It was created to establish appropriate substitutes to prison sentences for the mentally ill.
The Koori Court is a division of the Magistrates’ Court for Aboriginal Victorians. Koori Court Magistrates receive training in understanding Indigenous issues and the Court procedures operate in a culturally sensitive manner where all the participants, the Magistrate, Aboriginal elders, the accused person and members of his/her family, sit around one table to discuss issues and work collaboratively towards a solution that benefits the greater community, as well as the offender. Discussions in the Koori Court are conducted without using technical legal terms, and the Magistrate determines a sentence which is appropriate for the offender and his/her community.
Family Violence Court Division
Family Violence Court Division is a distinctive division of the Magistrates’ Court which handles violent crime inside families. Magistrates at these divisions have the authority to order offenders to take part in the counselling programs. These Divisions are situated at the Magistrates’ Courts in Heidelberg and Ballarat. These two divisions have exclusive on site support services, which include extra security officers, trained social workers, community centres and extra legal advisors from Victoria Legal Aid. Melbourne, Werribee, Frankston and Sunshine Magistrates’ Courts also have similar support services known as the Specialist Family Violence Service.
Children’s Court of Victoria
477 Little Lonsdale Street, Melbourne (www.childrenscourt.vic.gov.au)
The Children’s Court deals with cases which involve children and young people under eighteen. It has two divisions: the Criminal Division and the Family Division. The Criminal Division addresses criminal offending by children and the Family Division handles matters connected with the care and safety of children and young people at risk of harm, as well as applications for intervention orders.