What is difference between local and district court?

Why Is My Case Being Heard In The District Court?


What is the difference between Local and District Court?


There are two main jurisdictions of Courts in NSW:  the Local Court and the District Court. The Local Court will hear relatively minor matters. The Local Court has a limitation of the sentences that it may pass.

The maximum gaol term is two years and the maximum fine is one of $5500.

In a Local Court a Magistrate will determine both the law and the facts. They will decide what happened, who is telling the truth and how that person is to be punished if the offence is proven.

Criminal offences are generally set out in the Crimes Act NSW 1900. Legislation will also say if the crime should be heard in the Local Court. Local Court matters are also known as “summary offences”.

Some Offences may be heard in the Local Court unless either the Prosecution or the Defence elect to take the matter to a District Court. For some offences (Table 1 Offences) it is only the Prosecution that can elect to take the matter to the District Court.

District Court matters are also known as “indictable offences”.


Can I choose to have my case heard in the District Court? What are table 1 offences and table 2 offences?


Because ‘Table 1’ offences are more serious offences and the consequences are more serious in terms of penalties available if found guilty, a defendant or the prosecution can make an election to have the matter dealt with in the District Court. This may happen if the nature of the crime alleged or the criminal history of the defendant supports such election being made.

Table 2 offences are less serious offences than Table One offences. The same factors apply such as the prior history of the defendant or perhaps the extent of the crime as set out in the alleged facts. The reason for this is that the prosecution, if successful in proving their case against a defendant, can seek to have the District Court impose greater penalty.

Some Offences are deemed so serious that they can only be heard in a District Court or the Supreme Court – these are known as Strictly Indictable matters.

In a District Court or Supreme Court matter a Judge will determine the law and the facts will be generally be decided by a Jury, they will decide on the guilt of the person standing trial. It is sometimes advisable to have a Jury trial.


What is the difference between local and district court sentences?


The district court penalties are significantly higher than those that are handed out in the local court. The maximum that a local court can sentence an offender is a jail term of 2 years.

For example, if an offence of assault occasioning actual bodily harm is dealt with in the local court the maximum penalty is 2 years imprisonment. However, if the case is dealt with in the district court, the maximum penalty is 5 years.

Jail sentences are handed out in the District Court far more regularly than the local court.

LY Lawyers appear in all Courts including the Local Court, The District Court and the Supreme Court.

If you would like more information on the difference between the local and district court, or the Supreme Court of NSW, call us on 1300 595 299 for a free consultation.