In Queensland, there are four levels of jurisdiction in the court system, as well as quite a few tribunals to deal with other matters.
The four primary court levels are Magistrates Court, District Court, Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal. Where your case will be heard is determined by the offence type.
The Magistrates Court, which is the first level of court in the Queensland justice system, is where most cases are first heard. When a person has been charged with a criminal offence, they must be brought to the Magistrates Court as soon as is practical.
A Magistrate has the judiciary power to decide on your case at the Magistrates Court, and they will base their decision on the strength of the evidence presented to them. If the evidence is strong enough, the Magistrate will order that the case go to trial in either the Magistrates Court itself, or be moved to a higher court for trial.
Less serious (summary) offences are heard in the Magistrates court, whereas more serious (indictable) offences are moved to higher courts.
The District Court is the mid-tier court within Queensland. It is used for more serious (indictable) offences, such as armed robbery, rape and fraud offences. The District Court is also used to determine appeals applied for from the Magistrates Court, and in turn, the Court may send appeals higher up. The Court employs a panel of jurors for determining cases.
In Queensland, the Supreme Court is the highest court, and it contains the Court of Appeal and the Trial Division.
The Supreme Court only hears the most serious criminal matters, such as murder and manslaughter. A Judge and jury, or a Judge sitting alone may conduct trials, the majority of which have been referred to the Supreme Court from the lower Courts, where there has been a question of fact or a question of law.
Court of Appeal
The Court of Appeal hears all appeals sent up from the lower courts, as well as from some tribunals. An appeal is determined based solely on the subject of the appeal, not on the entire case subject. In Queensland, the Court of Appeal consists of three or five judges who determine the appeal and who can either dismiss the appeal, or allow the appeal.
If the appeal is dismissed, the original decision of the lower court will remain in place. If an appeal is allowed, the Court of Appeal will either make a new decision for the case, or order a retrial.
In the case of sentence length appeals, the sentence may be decreased if the appeal succeeds, or the court will inform you that they intend to increase your sentence, which means you can retract your appeal to avoid having your sentence increased. However, the Attorney General has the right to appeal against light sentences, and may succeed in having your sentence increased.