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QLD The Criminal Justice System

In Queensland, criminal offences can be divided into two broad categories.  These are identified as simple offences; and crimes and misdemeanours

Simple offences include disorderly behaviour, traffic offences and minor criminal offences.  Crimes and misdemeanours are classed as indictable offences, and they include more serious offences, such as murder, rape, robbery, assault and break and enter.

If an individual commits an offence and the police have gathered sufficient evidence, they can then charge that individual with a criminal offence.  Under the Queensland law, after the charge has been laid, the police must bring the accused person to court as soon as possible

The state court has three levels, the Magistrates Court, the District Court and the Supreme Court.  All criminal matters originally start in the Magistrates Court.  The Magistrate must decide whether there is enough evidence against the accused for the case to go to trial. 

If the Magistrate is satisfied that there is sufficient evidence for a trail to occur, the matter is committed for trial.  The seriousness of the case determines whether the case will be heard in the Supreme or District Court’.

Simple Offences

For simple offences, a defendant may proceed with one of the following options:

  1. if the defendant requires more time to consider their plea, the defendant or their lawyer can ask for the
  2. magistrate to adjourn the case and set a new date
  3. if the defendant pleads guilty, the magistrate will listen to submissions or information presented and then decides on the penalty
  4. if the defendant pleads not guilty to a simple offence, the magistrate will set a summary hearing.

Indictable Offences

If the defendant pleads guilty to a minor indictable offence, the magistrate can decide the penalty at the first mention or will set a date for a sentence hearing.

For other indictable offences the magistrate will set a committal hearing to determine if there is enough evidence to send the defendant to trial in either the Supreme Court or District Court.

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