The vast majority of criminal matters in Tasmania are dealt with in the Magistrates Court. Matters dealt with in the Magistrates Court range from speeding offences to crimes of dishonesty such as aggravated burglary and stealing where the property involved is less than $5000. Some matters cannot be heard in the Magistrate Court, whilst some matters afford the defendant the right to elect either the Magistrate Court or the Supreme Court. For example: if a person is charged with a crime of dishonesty such as stealing, dishonestly acquiring a financial advantage, forgery or receiving stolen property then under sections 71 and 72 of the Justices Act 1959:

  • if the value is $5,000 or over, there is a trial or plea of guilty in the Supreme Court;
  • if the value does not exceed $5,000, the accused has an option as to which Court in which they wish to be tried; and
  • if the value is below $500

it is normally decided before a Magistrate, but upon application the Magistrate can send it for trial upon indictment to the Supreme Court.

A person charged with dangerous driving under the Traffic Act 1925 has an option as to which Court, as does a person charged with escape. A ‘minor’ assault (common assault under the Police Offences Act 1935) must be dealt with in the Court of Petty Sessions, and a ‘major’ assault (Criminal Code assault) in the Supreme Court. A person can be charged with selling a prohibited substance under one section of the Poisons Act 1971 (Tas) upon indictment in the Supreme Court and or summarily under another section in Petty Sessions.

Coroner's Court/Inquest

Where an unnatural death or a fire has occurred, and no one has been charged by the police with an offence, an inquest into the event will be held in a Coroner's Court. The Coroner decides the manner and cause of death or the fire, and whether there is enough evidence to put any person on trial before a judge and jury. In some cases an inquest may be held to establish the date and place of the death or the fire, and the identity of the deceased, even though a person has been charged with an indictable offence arising out of the incident.

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