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Simple Offences, Crimes and Either Way Offences in Perth

In Perth and elsewhere in Western Australia, how an offence is described in the legislation affects how the charge is dealt with. West Australian legislation describes two types of criminal offences: simple offences and crimes. There are also ‘either way’ offences, which can be dealt with either as simple offences or as crimes. This article deals with simple offences, crimes and either way offences in Perth and elsewhere in WA. 

Simple offences in Perth

Simple offences in Perth and WA are criminal acts that are referred to in the legislation as ‘offences’ and not ‘crimes.’ The Magistrates Court in WA has exclusive summary jurisdiction for matters involving adults and deals with all ‘simple offences.’ These offences cannot be dealt with in the higher courts. For example, under section 313 of the Criminal Code, a common assault is a simple offence. A person found guilty of assault is liable to imprisonment for up to 18 months and a fine of up to $18,000. If the offence is aggravated, they are liable to u to three years imprisonment and a fine of up to $36,000.

Other simple offences are:

  • Possess or use a prohibited drug contrary to section 6 (1) of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1981;
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) contrary to section 62 of the Road Traffic Act 1974; and
  • Driving with a BAC above 0.08 contrary to section 64 of the Road Traffic Act 1974 (mid-range drink driving).

Crimes in Perth

Under the Criminal Procedure Act 2004, any offence described as a ‘crime’ is an indictable offence. Indictable offences in Perth and WA may only be dealt with by the District or Supreme Court. The matter will commence in the Magistrates or Children’s Court and then be committed to a higher court if it is going to proceed.

For example, under section 279 of the Criminal Code, any person who intentionally causes the death of another person is guilty of murder and liable to imprisonment for life. 

Other examples of crimes are:

  • Sexual penetration of a person without consent contrary to section 325 (1) of the Criminal Code;
  • Deprivation of liberty contrary to section 333 of the Criminal Code; and

Limitation period

A simple offence must be prosecuted within 12 months of the date of the alleged offence except where otherwise prescribed. An indictable offence may be prosecuted at any time after its alleged commission. 

What is an ‘either way’ offence?

An ‘either way’ offence is an offence that is referred to as a crime in WA legislation and for which the legislation sets out two maximum penalties, one of which applies where the matter is dealt with by a magistrate and another that applies where it is dealt with on indictment. An example of this is the offence of assault causing bodily harm under section 317 of the Criminal Code. A person who commits this crime is liable to a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment when dealt with on indictment (or seven for an aggravated offence). However, the maximum that applies when the matter is dealt with summarily is two years imprisonment and a fine of $24,000 (or three years and $36,000 for an aggravated offence.

Other examples of ‘either way’ offences include:

  • Fraud;
  • Possessing stolen or unlawful property;
  • Being armed in a way that may cause fear;
  • Indecent assaultand
  • Obscene act in public.

‘Either way’ offences are dealt with by a magistrate unless the prosecution or defence applies for the charge be tried on indictment. An application that an ‘either way’ offence be dealt with on indictment can be made because of:

  1. The seriousness of the offence and whether the summary jurisdiction could adequately punish the accused;
  2. The Sentencing Act 1995 and its application to matters where delcared criminal organisation are involved;
  3. Whether one of more co-accuseds are to be tried on indictment;
  4. Whether the charge forms part of a course of conduct;
  5. The interests of justice.

If you require legal advice or representation in relation to simple offences, indictable offences and either way offences in Perth or in any other legal matter please contact Go To Court Lawyers.

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Fernanda Dahlstrom

Fernanda Dahlstrom has a Bachelor of Laws from Latrobe University, a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice from the College of Law, a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Melbourne and a Master of Arts (Writing and Literature) from Deakin University. Fernanda practised law for eight years, working in criminal defence, child protection and domestic violence law in the Northern Territory. She also practised in family law after moving to Brisbane in 2016.
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