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Contributed by MichaelCrowley and current to 27 July 2018

Criminal law in Australia has its origins in the common law of the United Kingdom. From that base and overtime, the Australian States and Territories have developed their particular criminal jurisprudence. For example, in 1899, Sir Samuel Griffith codified Queensland’s criminal law that is colloquially called the Griffith Code. Australia’s other code state, Western Australia (WA), adopted the Griffith Code in 1913 with its enactment of Criminal Code Act Complication Act 1913 (WA) (hereafter referred to as the Criminal Code).

The Criminal Code does not cover all criminal law concerns in Western Australia. Other relevant statutes include, the Criminal Investigation Act 2006 (WA), the Criminal Procedure Act 2004 (WA), the Criminal Property Confiscation Act 1991 (WA), the Misuse of Drugs Act 1981 (WA), the Road Traffic Act 1974 (WA), the Surveillance Devices Act 1998 (WA) and the Young Offenders Act 1994 (WA). Commonwealth offences, which also may be heard in Western Australian courts, are primarily found in the Crimes Act 1914 (Cth) and Criminal Code 1995 (Cth).

Criminal matters begin with a person being arrested or served with a summons to attend court. For less serious matters police can issue a prosecution notice accompanied by either a summons or court attendance notice. A summons is a legal document handed or delivered to the accused person setting out the date and time the accused person must attend court. A court attendance notice provides an accused with the option of either pleading guilty in writing or attending court. A failure by an accused person to attend court when required can result in a warrant being issued by the court for the arrest of that person.

Sir Samuel Griffiths (1845 – 1920): Premier of Queensland - Chief Justice of Australia.
Born in Wales on 21 June 1845, Samuel Griffiths moved to Australia in 1853. After initially working as an articled clerk he was admitted to the Bar on 14th October 1867. His political work began in 1872 when he successfully stood for the seat of East Moreton in Queensland. He was highly regarded as a moderating influence both during his time as the Leader of the Opposition and Premier of Queensland. In 1893 he moved on from politics to serve as Queensland’s chief justice, presiding over more than 400 judgements, many involving the interpretation of statutes. His most memorable contribution at this time was the codification of the Queensland criminal law. In 1903 he was chosen as the High Court of Australia’s first chief justice going on to sit on 950 reported cases. Sir Samuel Griffith finally retired from the High Court in 1919, passing away a year later at the age of 75.
This chapter explores the general principles, the scope and some types of offences that are covered by criminal law in Western Australia. It does not deal with: the WA legal system - About the WA Legal System , Indigenous legal issues – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples , Arrest, Interrogation and Bail or Penalties and Prisoners .

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