Supreme Court of Western Australia
The Supreme Court is the State’s highest court, with responsibility for both criminal and civil matters, and is the State’s main appeal court. The Court is divided into two divisions – the General Division and the Court of Appeal. The Supreme Court is the State’s highest court and is divided into two divisions – the General Division and the Court of Appeal.
The General Division
Civil and criminal actions are determined in the general division. The General Division deals with only the most serious offences such as homicide and related offences, and serious breaches of Commonwealth drug enforcement laws. Judges generally preside over jury trials, where a jury of 12 members of the community decide if an individual is guilty or not guilty of a criminal charge. The General Division also hears appeals from decisions of magistrates sitting in criminal matters in the Magistrates Court. The Division also deals with civil matters of a complex nature or where the amount involved in a dispute is more than $750,000, as well as applications for injunctions and other forms of relief. In Western Australia, most civil trials are heard without a jury. Civil actions are heard by a single judge. Prior to hearing they are usually managed by a registrar who gives directions to the parties to try and ensure that each case settles by agreement between the parties or proceeds to trial in the quickest, most cost effective way, consistently with the need to provide a just outcome. In certain circumstances, civil actions are managed by a judge. The Supreme Court deals with all matters involving wills and the administration of deceased estates. This includes appointing a person to deal with a deceased person’s property following death.
The Court of Appeal
The Court of Appeal Division of the Supreme Court was established on 1 February 2005 following the proclamation of the Acts Amendment (Court of Appeal) Act 2004 (WA) The Court of Appeal hears appeals from decisions of a single Judge of the Supreme Court and from Judges of the District Court as well as various other courts and tribunals. The Court of Appeal also hears criminal appeals against sentences, such as the length of imprisonment, and appeals against conviction. In some cases it is necessary to obtain leave (permission) to appeal before the appeal can proceed. The matters that the Court of Appeal can determine are set out in section 58 of the Supreme Court Act 1935 (WA). Usually matters in the Court of Appeal will be determined by a panel of three judges, although some matters will be heard by two judges or by a single judge. In addition, four judges of Appeal are members of the Industrial Appeal Court, which determines appeals from the Western Australian Industrial Relations Commission.