Most serious criminal cases are prosecuted in the District or Supreme Court, but some can be dealt with in the Local Court.
Prosecutions in the Local Court are usually a lot faster than those in higher courts, but there are limits on the penalties an offender can receive. The Local Court can only impose a maximum sentence of 2 years for any single offence, or 5 years for multiple offences. These restrictions do not apply to the higher courts.
Why some serious crimes are dealt with in the Local Court
Under NSW law, many of the more serious matters have to be transferred (committed) to the District Court and the most severe cases (such as murder) to the Supreme Court. However in certain cases, the ODPP has discretion to decide whether a serious crime is prosecuted in the Local Court or District Court.
When deciding on whether to prosecute the case in the District Court or the Local Court the ODPP will take into account the following factors:
- seriousness of the offence
- the accused’s personal circumstances
- the maximum penalties available in the Local Court and District Court
- any standard non-parole period available
- prevalence of the type of offence
- the manner in which a co-accused is being dealt with.
- any other reasons that the interest of justice requires the matter be dealt with in the District Court.
Generally speaking, when the ODPP can appropriately prosecute a serious crime in the Local Court we will usually do so.