The Supreme Court hears among the most serious criminal, and complex civil, cases in the state, as well as some appeals from Victorian courts and tribunals. As the Supreme Court is the highest court in Victoria only the High Court of Australia can review its decisions.
The Supreme Court has two divisions - the Trial Division and the Court of Appeal. For a current list of our judiciary see the Our Judiciary page.
The Trial Division is made up of three divisions: The Criminal Division, the Common Law Division and the Commercial Court. It hears among the most serious criminal and civil cases in Victoria, including:
- cases of treason, murder, attempted murder and other major criminal matters
- civil cases unlimited in the amount of money that may be claimed
- civil cases involving complex legal issues
- appeals from the Magistrates' Court and the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal judicial review
- procedural matters, including applications for bail; probate business (dealing with the wills of deceased persons); and urgent applications for injunctions (for example, for a court order that a party stop doing something)
- judicial review of administrative decisions
- corporations matters
Criminal cases are initiated in the Trial Division by the State of Victoria - through the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) - on behalf of the community.
In the Supreme Court, all criminal cases are heard before a judge and jury. The jury decides the verdict based on the evidence presented in Court and the judge imposes the appropriate penalty for those found guilty.
In civil cases, generally one party (an individual or organisation) takes action against another who they believe has infringed their legal rights.
Some civil cases are also heard before a judge and jury. Generally in these cases, the jury decides if the plaintiff has established its claim and determines the amount of money (damages) to be awarded.
In civil cases heard without a jury, the judge decides if the plaintiff has established its claim and gives judgment.
Court of Appeal
The Court of Appeal determines whether a trial was conducted fairly, and whether the law was correctly applied.
It hears criminal or civil cases decided in the County Court or Supreme Court Trial Division, and some appeals from the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. Some appeals require permission from the Court of Appeal before they can be heard.
Usually three judges will hear an appeal. Upon deciding a case, the Court of Appeal may:
- order a retrial of the case
- change the decision in a case; for example, reduce or increase a sentence of imprisonment
- conclude that there was no error and that the lower court's decision stands
In addition to Supreme Court judges in the Trial Division, the Court has associates judges who perform a range of functions including mediations and pre-trial case management. Judges of appeal hear cases in the Court of Appeal.
Because the Supreme Court is the highest court in Victoria, only the High Court of Australia can review its decisions.
Download the brochure The Supreme Court of Victoria: The highest court in Victoria for an overview of the court hierarchy in Victoria.
A 'Court for all Victorians' - regional hearings
Most Supreme Court cases are heard in Melbourne. The Court also travels on circuit to hear cases in locations across Victoria including Ballarat, Bendigo, Geelong, Hamilton, Horsham, Morwell, Mildura, Sale, Shepparton, Wangaratta, Warrnambool and Wodonga.
It is possible to sit in on and observe most cases heard by the Supreme Court. Visit the attending court page for more information.
For current information on cases before the Court, see the Daily List.
The Chief Executive Officer oversees the administrative functions of the Court essential to a high quality court that are separated from the judicial component of court matters.
These areas include the Court of Appeal Registry, Principal Registry, Funds in Court, Juries Commissioner's Office and Court Administration. Although Funds in Court is recognised as a support function of the Court, it operates as a discrete division under the direction of the Senior Master.
Court administration includes a range of functions that support the judiciary and staff at the Court including:
- Executive and strategy management
- Communication services
- Finance services
- Human resource services
- Business intelligence services
- Information technology services
- Facility, security and contracts
- Archives and records management
Visit the Contact page for administration details.
Performance management involves measures, monitoring, analysing and using data on a regular basis to improve the effectiveness, efficiency and quality of the Supreme Court of Victoria's operations.
As the first Australian court to join the International Framework for Court Excellence (IFCE), we take our performance seriously.
Court performance measures do not relate to the adjudicative function of the Court, or the decisions of the Court.
For information on Court performance, view the current annual report.
International Framework for Court Excellence
The Supreme Court of Victoria was the first Supreme Court in Australia to become a member of the International Consortium for Court Excellence (ICCE).
Experts from Singapore, Australia, the United States and Europe formed the Consortium to develop an International Framework for Court Excellence (IFCE). The Australasian Institute for Judicial Administration is one of four founding members and the signatory that represented Australia in the development of the IFCE.
The IFCE includes a framework of core values that are aligned with seven areas of excellence. It has an important role in assisting courts to improve the quality of their services. The Supreme Court regularly assesses its performance against the IFCE to ensure it is tracking well in its application of the model.
Find out more about the Consortium and the IFCE from the ICCE website.
Report on Government Services
The annual Report on Government Services provides information on the equity, effectiveness and efficiency of government services in Australia, including court administration functions of Australian and State and Territory courts.