Criminal matters may be heard in the Magistrates, District or Supreme Courts.
It is possible for a matter heard in the Magistrates Court to be decided without the defendant being present. Where someone is convicted in these circumstances, it is called an 'ex parte conviction'. An application can be made to set aside an ex parte conviction. The application is heard in the Magistrates Court. For more information, see Application to set aside an ex parte conviction.
Appeals in criminal matters can be against a conviction itself and/or about the severity of the sentence (penalty).
An appeal is not a re-hearing to see if someone else will come to a different decision. It is not usually possible to re-argue questions of fact on appeal (unless special permission is granted). In most cases, the appeal must be based on some question of law. As an appeal therefore often means the arguing of legal principles, it is difficult for appellants who do not have some legal training to conduct their own appeals. A person who wants to appeal against a magistrate's decision should seek legal advice as quickly as possible.
Where a defendant attends a Magistrates Court hearing and:
- is found guilty and sentenced of and for a summary or minor indictable offence, an appeal against conviction or sentence can be made to a single judge of the Supreme Court [see Magistrates Court Act 1991 (SA) s 42(2)(b)];
- pleads guilty to a major indictable offence (or a group of offences including a makor indictable offence) and is sentenced, an appeal against that sentence can be made to Full Court of the Supreme Court, with the permission of the Full Court [see s 42(2)(ab)].
Note that appeals relating to offences that are categorised as industrial offences must be made to the Industrial Court [see s 42(2)(a)].
Appeals against a conviction or sentence handed down by the District or Supreme Court (these are called 'Superior Courts') are heard by the Court of Criminal Appeal, that is, the Full Court of the Supreme Court (being three judges sitting together, or if three judges are not available (or where the Chief Justice directs), two judges) [see Criminal Procedure Act 1921 (SA) ss 157 and 165].
The content of the Law Handbook is made available as a public service for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice. See Disclaimer for details. For free and confidential legal advice in South Australia call 1300 366 424.