The County Court is an intermediate trial court, its civil and criminal jurisdictions placing it above the Magistrates’ Court and below the Supreme Court in the Victorian hierarchy of courts. The County Court can hear matters at first instance and in some circumstances on appeal.
The civil jurisdiction of the County Court covers the following:
- All claims for personal injuries, irrespective of the amount claimed.
- Claims against municipal councils for loss or injury sustained while upon or using roads, land, building, under the control of the council or municipality.
- Actions where jurisdiction is specifically conferred on the County Court by a statute. For example, the Adoption Act, the Trustee Act.
The County Court has jurisdiction to hear all indictable offences except treason and murder. Subject to the power of the Supreme Court to order the transfer of a matter from the Supreme Court to the County Court, the Director of Public Prosecutions decides whether to present a person for trial in the County Court or the Supreme Court. In practice, the majority of offences other then treason and murder are heard in the County Court.
The County Court hears appeals from the Magistrates' Court and the Children’s Court in respect of criminal matters. The County Court also hears appeals from the Family Division of the Children’s Court.
A decision of the County Court in its appellate jurisdiction is generally final. An exception is when the County Court substitutes a sentence of imprisonment for a non-custodial sentence. A convicted person can then, with the leave of the Court of Appeal of the Supreme Court, appeal against the sentence to the Court of Appeal.
For further information go to the County Court website.
Department of Health and Human Services and appeals to the County Court of Victoria
The Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services and certain parties to a Children’s Court proceeding may appeal to the County Court against a final order. See advice Appeals.
If a child protection practitioner has been summonsed to attend the County Court in person or has received a subpoena to produce a report or child protection file in an application arising from a Children's Court proceeding, the practitioner, if located in a metropolitan division, must contact the Child Protection Litigation Office. Rural area practitioners should contact a divisional solicitor. See advice Responding to subpoenas.
The power of the Secretary to appeal a decision to the County Court is delegated to the divisional Deputy Secretary.
Consideration for good practice
Child protection practitioners should contact the Child Protection Litigation Office as soon as possible after receiving a notice of appeal or if they wish to discuss the possibility of the Secretary lodging an appeal.
Child protection practitioners should familiarise themselves with court etiquette before attending court. The department's barrister will provide advice in this regard.