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Types of Crimes and Courts in Australia

In Australia, there are various types of crimes depending on the seriousness of the offence and how much harm it has caused to the victim. Different courts in Australia deal with these cases, including Magistrates Court, District Court, Supreme Court and High Court.  These courts have jurisdiction over all types of criminal offences committed in Australia. We will explore more about these courts and what they do in detail below. There are also several top crimes in AU, these also attract various legal processes and convictions. We will also look at the various categories of crimes in AU.

High Crime Vs Low Crime

In terms of crime, Australia is generally considered a low-crime country. While there are areas where petty crime occurs, particularly in cities and tourist areas, overall Australian citizens have a low chance of becoming a victim.

However, some crimes may be more prevalent depending on where you are living or travelling. For example, high-crime neighbourhoods tend to have issues with minor assaults/theft-muggings, whereas low-crime neighbourhoods can suffer from drug offences and burglary.

Summary Offences

Some offences are declared to be ‘summary’ offences. Summary offences can be heard by a magistrate. You will not go to a jury trial if you have been charged with a summary offence. If you plead guilty or are found guilty, you may get an order requiring you to pay a fine, or make reparation or both, instead of going to jail. For example, infringement notices such as speeding fines are given out as summary offences.

Indictable Offences

In Australia, indictable offences are called such because they must be prosecuted by indictment (an accusation made by a grand jury). Indictable offences are considered serious, often violent or sexual crimes like murder, manslaughter, rape, kidnapping and aggravated robbery. Indictable offences fall under three categories: Class A (the most serious), Class B and Class C. The maximum penalty for a class A indictable offence is life imprisonment.

The Court System in Australia

There are two types of courts in Australia: State-based courts, managed by each Australian state and territory, and Federal Courts, which are managed by a national level. While these courts handle different offences, they all have one goal—to protect public safety. There is also a body that addresses minor offence infractions called Courts or Community Justice Centres (CJC). The most serious crimes are handled by state-based courts.

When someone commits a serious crime, they are arrested and brought to court. In each state, offences are divided into two groups—summary and indictable—depending on how serious they are. For example, murder is generally an indictable offence, while stealing an item worth less than $100 is considered a summary offence.

The most serious crimes are sent to state-based superior courts, where a judge hears evidence and decides on an appropriate sentence. If someone pleads guilty, they may be sentenced immediately. Otherwise, after hearing all of the evidence, a jury will decide whether or not to convict them on criminal charges.

Types of Courts in Australia

The types of courts you might need to get involved with depending on what kind of crime you’re accused or suspected of. If you commit a federal offence, for example, such as using an ATM that doesn’t belong to you, your case will be heard in federal court. If it’s a state-level offence, like taking drugs across state lines, it will go through state court. The next step is figuring out whether your alleged crime was a misdemeanour or felony material.

The following are some types of courts in Australia

County or magistrate’s court – If you’re a misdemeanour defendant (i.e. it’s your first offence, and it’s only punishable by a maximum sentence of fewer than 12 months in prison)

State or supreme court – For most cases, including those over $750 or where offenders have to serve more than three years in prison.

Federal court – If you’re charged with a federal offence (i.e. it involves crossing state lines) or a serious one with a maximum sentence over 12 months.

Court of appeal – If you have already had your case reviewed by a court, but think that there are strong enough reasons to review their decision. Cases are heard by at least three judges who will determine whether they agree with you or not.

High court – Cases that involve federal law, constitutional matters i.e. state powers, breaches of international treaties/agreements and extradition proceedings fall under high court jurisdiction.

Supreme court – Also hears cases on constitutional matters but only when lower courts make mistakes as well as any other matters deemed necessary for them to hear to deliver justice for all Australians. Judges may then make decisions based on those rulings which apply across all Australian states and territories.

If you’re not sure what kind of court you should be looking at, ask a criminal lawyer or your local court clerk. They’ll help direct you to an appropriate judge to address your case.

Top Crimes You Should Be Aware Of

Crimes are committed for a variety of reasons, for example, financial gain, or as a result of mental illness. There is no ‘typical’ crime that is committed; there are however certain types and methods used to commit them. Crimes generally have legal consequences resulting from their violation – that is why they are considered criminal offences.  In Australia, most crimes are made illegal by either Federal laws legislated by Commonwealth or State Laws legislated by each state. The main body responsible for investigating and prosecuting crimes is usually the state police forces.

Murder – Intentionally causing death to another person. There are three major forms of murder, each with its distinct elements that must be proven beyond reasonable doubt for a conviction to occur.

Assault – Unlawfully applying force to another person, directly or indirectly. It does not require that physical harm be caused for an assault to have occurred.

Attempted Murder – The offence committed when a person intends to kill someone else but fails due to circumstances outside their control (or those of the victim).

Kidnapping / False Imprisonment – Involves detaining a person without their consent and/or carrying them away from where they were initially held against their will.

Sexual Assault – Any sexual activity forced upon someone else without that person’s consent, including rape.

Armed Robbery – Where a firearm or other weapon is used to threaten or injure victims and take hold of the property.

These are the most prevalent crimes in Australia. The good news is that the crime rate in Australia has been going down in the past few years. This is very promising and will ultimately lead to a peaceful Australia.


While all states have laws against murder, armed robbery, burglary, arson, kidnapping and other serious offences that involve violence or damage to property, each state has its criminal laws. The most serious crimes, such as murder are dealt with by a Supreme Court rather than a Local Court. We hope that you have found our guide useful for better understanding what happens in cases where someone is charged with a crime in Australia.


1. What does a criminal court look like?

There are two main types of criminal courts: County Court, which deals with all serious criminal offences, such as assault or murder; Magistrates’ Court, which deals with less serious criminal offences, including minor assaults, some traffic offences and drug possession.

2. What are the most common offences in Australia?

The most common offences are acts that are illegal because they harm or inconvenience other people or damage their property. To prove an offence, a prosecutor must prove that you knew what you were doing was against the law, and you did it anyway. Examples include Theft, assault, arson and driving while intoxicated. Other offences also exist under federal laws such as drug trafficking or copyright infringement.

3. Are all criminal offences treated equally?

No, not all criminal offences are treated equally by Australian courts. One way to understand how different types of crime are treated differently is to categorise crimes as either summary or indictable offences, with summary offences being those dealt with exclusively by magistrates and indictable ones being handled exclusively by judges in higher courts.

4. How does the court system work?

The Australian court system is split between federal courts, which include federal Magistrates Court and Federal Court; state courts, including District or Supreme Courts, Coroners’ Courts, Local Courts and Children’s Court; and territory courts such as Northern Territory Supreme Court.

5. What happens when someone has been convicted?

If a person is found guilty of a criminal offence, there are different types of penalties that can be imposed. The main types are fines, imprisonment and community service orders. For more serious offences, such as murder or manslaughter, a person can be imprisoned for life or a specific term. For less serious offences there is usually a set range that allows judges to impose any combination of fines, community service orders or short-term prison sentences according to individual circumstances.






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