When a criminal offence occurs, or a civil dispute arises, these are the procedures that lead to a court case:
In the case of a criminal offence, the accused is arrested and taken to a police station where the charge is explained and a formal written charge is made.
The alternative is that the accused is summonsed by police to attend court to answer the charge or charges.
Usually, the arrested person is released on bail, which is an undertaking/agreement to attend court on a certain day at a given time. For the most serious offences, the arrested person may be kept in custody.
For less serious offences, rather than arrest, the charging officer can exercise discretion and commence the action by prosecution notice accompanied with either a court hearing notice or summons.
The accused receives a document requiring his or her attendance at court, which also provides information as to the alleged offence.
A date is set for the court attendance and the accused person will be requested to plead ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty’.
If a person needs legal help before being able to plead, the case is adjourned to a later date.
If the accused pleads guilty, the magistrate will deal with the matter. If the plea is not guilty, a trial date is set and trial preparations begin.
In civil and administrative cases, courts and tribunals can make decisions on a range of disputes, or review decisions made by another person or organisation.
For civil matters, a person may seek advice from a solicitor about a legal problem or complaint.
The solicitor may send a letter on behalf of the complainant to the third party, demanding certain actions.
If this does not produce a satisfactory response, an official notice (commonly known as a writ of summons in the Supreme and District Courts and a claim in the Magistrates Court) is sent requiring the third party to answer the claims made against them.
In most cases a writ of summons or claim may be taken out in person, without a solicitor being involved. If the parties cannot reach agreement on their dispute, the court will decide the matter.
To start proceedings for an administrative case, an application form should be completed at the relevant tribunal.
The applicant will be advised on what to do next and how to serve other parties named in the application.
Disagreement with outcomes
If you disagree with a court or tribunal decision or sentence, you may have a right of appeal or be able to apply for a re-hearing or review of the decision or sentence. You should consult a lawyer to find out about the necessary steps.
Should a litigant wish to represent themselves in court, procedural information on court processes is available at the relevant court jurisdiction website:
Aboriginal Legal Service of Western Australia
7 Aberdeen Street
East Perth, WA 6004
Telephone: (08) 9265 6666
Facsimile: (08) 9221 1767
PO Box 8194, Perth WA 6849
Community Legal Centres Association
33 Moore Street
East Perth, WA 6004
Telephone: (08) 9221 9322
Legal Aid WA
32 St Georges Terrace
Perth, WA 6000
Telephone: (08) 9261 6222
Facsimile: (08) 9261 6554
PO Box L916, Perth WA 6842
Last updated: 11-Nov-2016
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