ACT offences which carry a maximum sentence of two years imprisonment or less and Commonwealth offences with a maximum penalty of less than one year must be heard by Magistrates. These types of offences are referred to as summary offences. Some offences may be heard in the Magistrates Court or the Supreme Court while more serious offences such as murder and serious drug offences must be heard in the Supreme Court, even though proceedings are commenced in the Magistrates Court. Offences which may or must be heard in the Supreme Court are referred to as indictable offences.
Before an indictable matter is referred to the Supreme Court for trial a Magistrate is required to assess the evidence of the prosecution to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to require the defendant to face trial in the Supreme Court. If the Magistrate is not satisfied there is sufficient evidence to warrant the person being tried in the Supreme Court the charges are dismissed.
The majority of the Magistrates Court work is taken up in dealing with such offences.