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The Queensland Court System


John Sutton

Queensland has three tiers of criminal courts, Magistrates, District and Supreme. Each of these courts has jurisdiction to hear and determine different criminal offences, mostly depending on the seriousness of the offence as determined by the maximum penalty which applies to it.

There is also a fourth court in the Queensland justice system, called the Court of Appeal, which is reserved for appeals against decisions of lower courts (up to and including the Supreme Court). The Court of Appeal does not have jurisdiction over any criminal offences before they have first been heard and determined by one or more of the courts below it.

Select the name of a court for more information:


District Court

A District Court is presided over by a Judge and has the power to hear and determine criminal matters with a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment or less (except for a small number of offences which an accused person can elect to be heard in that court).

A District Court does have some power to hear offences which carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, for example some special forms of property damage or a charge of rape.

A District Court also has power to hear and determine appeals against decisions made by a Magistrate.

Prosecutions in the District Court are conducted by a lawyer from the Office of the Queensland Director of Public Prosecutions, commonly abbreviated to DPP or ODPP. Prosecutions for federal offences in the District Court are conducted by a lawyer from the Office of the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, commonly abbreviated to CDPP.

A trial in the District Court will normally be held in front of a jury of 12, though there is some limited scope to ask that a trial be heard by a Judge sitting alone, without a jury.

Supreme Court

The Supreme Court is presided over by a Justice and is the highest criminal court in Queensland. The Supreme Court has the power to hear and determine the most serious offences, including those carrying a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

Prosecutions in the Supreme Court are conducted by a lawyer from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, commonly abbreviated to DPP or ODPP. Prosecutions for federal offences in the Supreme Court are conducted by a lawyer from the Office of the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, commonly abbreviated to CDPP.

A trial in the Supreme Court will normally be held in front of a jury of 12, though there is some limited scope to ask that a trial be heard by a Judge sitting alone, without a jury.

Childrens Court

In Queensland, matters involving children (those aged 17 years or younger at the time of the offence) are dealt with in either a special Magistrates Court or their own District Court, depending on the type of matter:

  • Magistrates Court matters involving juveniles are dealt with in a special court known as the Childrens Court. These matters are heard and determined by a Magistrate.
  • More serious criminal offences are dealt with in the Childrens Court of Queensland (CCQ) which is a special form of District Court. These matters are heard before a Judge.

All Childrens Court proceedings in the Magistrates Court are heard in a closed court.This means that only people directly involved in the case may be present.Strict non-disclosure provisions apply to Childrens Court matters ensuring that no information identifying a juvenile defendant can be published.

Often matters are overseen by Youth justice who assist in reintegrating the child back into the community whilst ensuring the child is also held accountable for their actions.

Prosecutions involved in Juvenile matters are consistent with those in the adult courts. A lawyer from the Director of Public Prosecutions will conduct the more serious matters in the CCQ whilst the Queensland Police Service have carriage of the less serious Childrens Court matters.


where to next?

If you suspect that you may be under investigation, or if you have been charged with an offence, it is vital to get competent legal advice as early as possible. Our lawyers will be able to guide you through the process while dealing with the various authorities related to your matter.

Why Choose Armstrong Legal?

Contact Armstrong Legal:
Brisbane: (07) 3229 4448
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