Our Director & Principal has been appearing in court on trials, sentencing hearings and bail applications since he was an articled clerk in 2007.
We appear for clients in all courts in Western Australia, whether your case involves a minor charge or a serious charge of murder in the Supreme Court. We have over a decade of courtroom advocacy experience including having appeared on numerous complex and lengthy matters before juries.
On a daily basis we represent clients facing charges in the Magistrates Court. Also known as a ‘court of summary jurisdiction’, the Magistrates Court deals with charges summarily. This means quickly and with as little formality as possible. In the Magistrates Court, lawyers don’t wear robes, as they do in the Supreme Court and District Court. Lawyers wear suits and appearances are brief and rapid-fire.
Most bail applications are determined in the Magistrates Court as everyone appears in this court when first charged, from charges of assault all the way up to murder.
The court deals with sentencing for a wide variety of offences, including common offences of assault, breaching a restraining order and disorderly behaviour. The court also deals with some serious sentencing matters including breaches of power by public servants, burglaries and assaults on public officers.
Trials in the Magistrates Court typically last a few hours to at most a day. As the trial is before a Magistrate, all of the formality of a jury trial is dispensed with, which significantly shortens the length of the trial. Trials that are listed for longer than half a day have to be listed at a special hearing called a “trial allocation date”. Despite the ordinarily short nature of summary trials, some trials where there are many charges can last several weeks.
If the police withdraw the charges against you, or you win the trial by being acquitted by the Magistrate, you are entitled to be awarded your costs back from the court. Costs orders don’t usually cover all of your legal fees but can range from 60-80% of your total legal fees. You don’t usually get all of your costs back as the costs award is discretionary and different Magistrates may take a different view about whether the amount your lawyer charged you was reasonable in the circumstances.
The Children’s Court has exclusive jurisdiction to hear charges alleged to be committed by a child, that is anyone under the age of 18 years at the time of the offence. The Children’s Court jurisdiction is a specialized jurisdiction. The formality of all of the adult courts is largely dispensed with. The court aims to make the proceedings as quick and understandable as possible, taking into account the fact the court deals with children.
The court deals with all offences including assault, sexual offending and murder. The sentencing regime is completely different to the adult courts with an emphasis on rehabilitation of young offenders.
Less serious offences are heard before a Magistrate, who has a limit on the length of sentence they can impose. Similar to the Magistrates Court, trials are dealt with quickly and informally. More serious offences are heard before the President of the Children’s Court, who is a Judge of the District Court.
Our Director & Principal has conducted many trials in the Children’s Court, having spent a full year practising solely in the Children’s Court jurisdiction when he was a prosecutor. In that time he appeared on trials and sentencing hearings before both Magistrates and the President of the Children’s Court.
The District Court deals with nearly all of the indictable offences in Western Australia, except for murder, manslaughter and a few other offences. In the District Court, trials are before a jury, although in some cases can be before a Judge alone if the right criteria are satisfied. Proceedings in the District Court are formal and lawyers wear black robes and a white bib called a “jabot”. Judges wear coloured robes. Lawyers used to wear wigs in Western Australia but this was abolished some time ago.
Sentencing hearings in the District Court can last several hours and involve a voluminous quantity of materials to consider, including pre-sentence, psychological and psychiatric reports. Trials usually last several days, up to several months, depending on the complexity of the case. It is very rare to have a trial listed for less than two days in the District Court.
Unfortunately there are no costs awards in the District Court even if you are successful.
Our director has considerable experience conducting jury trials, having appeared on in excess of 60 jury trials.
The Supreme Court is similar to the District Court in its level of formality. Charges dealt with in this court are the most serious offences known to the law in Western Australia. The most common charges involve homicide. But in recent times the court has also been hearing lengthy drug importation and drug dealing trials due to the backlog in the District Court.
The Supreme Court has an original jurisdiction concerning bail applications. That is, whether you had bail refused by a Magistrate or not, the Supreme Court can reconsider your case for bail afresh. There is no requirement to show changed circumstances or a failure to present your case for bail previously. The court will take into account previous refusals for bail when deciding whether to grant you bail, but is not bound by them.
The Supreme Court also hears appeals against conviction and sentence concerning Magistrates Court charges.
Court of Appeal
The Court of Appeal deals with appeals against sentence and conviction from the District and Supreme Courts. Appeals are highly complex and require a consideration of hundreds of pages of court transcripts, documents and exhibits. The most senior and experienced Judges in the State sit on the Court of Appeal bench. Appeals are usually heard by a coram of 3 Judges.