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THE CRIMINAL SYSTEM IN WA

In WA the main sources of criminal offences are the Criminal Code, the Road Traffic Act 1974 and the Misuse of Drugs Act 1981.

People can also be charged with offences established by a variety of other pieces of legislation such as the Fish Resources Management Act 1994, the Liquor Control Act 1988 and council by-laws. For offences against by-laws, such as parking infringements, you will need to contact the issuing council for a copy of its by-laws.

In WA, criminal offences are dealt with in one of three courts. The Supreme Court deals with the most serious criminal offences, such as murder and attempted murder. The District Court handles the balance of serious criminal offences such as manslaughter, sexual offences and serious drug trafficking. The various Magistrates Court around the state deal with relatively minor offences such as drink driving, other traffic offences, some assaults and drug matters.

Some offences can be dealt with either in Magistrates Court or the District Court. Some matters can only be dealt with by the District/Supreme Court.

A Supreme or District Court is presided over by a judge. If the matter goes on to trial in either of those courts the decision as to whether the person is guilty or not guilty will generally be made by a jury of 12 ordinary people. In Magistrates Court if the matter goes to trial it is the Magistrate alone who will decide whether a person is guilty or not guilty. The procedure for criminal matters in courts is laid out in the Criminal Procedure Act.

Electronic copies of WA legislation can be obtained free from the State Law Publisher.

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St Georges Terrace
Perth WA 6831

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