Northern Territory Coat of Arms

Northern Territory Magistrates Courts

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About the NT Courts & Tribunals

Justices of the Peace

Justices of the Peace are located at each court house. A list of other Justices of the peace can be found here.


Courts are constituted by a single Stipendiary (receiving a salary) Magistrate, although Justices of the Peace may sit as the Court of Summary Jurisdiction. Justices are not paid for their service to the courts.

The jurisdiction (the power to hear and determine cases) of the Magistrates Courts are divided into two main areas, civil and criminal. The Local Court deals with civil cases and the Court of Summary Jurisdiction mostly deals with less serious criminal cases.

The Magistrates also have jurisdiction to hear matters in a number of other courts, such as the Juvenile Court, the Family Matters Court, Local Court, Small Claims Court and the Work Health Court.

There are presently 14 Magistrates appointed in the Northern Territory . The Chief Magistrate and eight Magistrates are based in Darwin, four Magistrates in Alice Springs and one in Katherine. They travel extensively to many other centres and communities to hold court sittings.

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The Local Court

The Local Court is established by the Local Court Act and may sit at any time and at any place the Chief Magistrate directs. Civil cases involving debts, damages or other actions to a maximum of $100 000 are heard in the local court.

Actions for amounts under $10, 000 may be heard in the Small Claims jurisdiction of the Local Court. The court is not bound by the rules of evidence in Small Claims, and may inform itself in any manner it thinks appropriate. Costs are not usually awarded and the aim is to settle disputes quickly with minimum expense to the parties. The Small Claims Act requires a registrar of the court to ensure that staff are available to assist parties and explain procedures.
The Local Court has the power to grant adoptions and to determine appeals against decisions of certain statutory office holders or bodies, eg appeals from decisions of the Commissioner of Tenancies.

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The Court of Summary Jurisdiction

The Court of Summary Jurisdiction is constituted under the Justices Act. A Registrar (or Deputy Registrar) of the Local Court is a Clerk of the Court of the Court of Summary Jurisdiction.

The Court proceeds in a summary manner, ie without a jury, to hear simple offences. Serious charges such as murder, manslaughter, sexual offences etc are indictable offences or crimes, and generally are dealt with in the Supreme Court. The court also has jurisdiction to hear applications under the Domestic Violence Act and may hear certain applications under the Family Law Act (an Act of the Commonwealth).

The Court of Summary Jurisdictions conducts a preliminary hearing of crimes and if the Magistrate decides there is sufficient evidence to put a defendant on trial (a prima facie case), that person will be committed to the Supreme Court. This procedure is known as a committal hearing. A defendant may plead guilty to a serious offence before a Magistrate and is then committed to be sentenced by the Supreme Court.

Domestic and Family Violence Act

Pamphlet 1 Domestic Violence Orders - What are they?
Pamphlet 2 How do I make an application?
Pamphlet 3 What do I put in my Affidavit in support?
Pamphlet 4 What do I do when I receive an Application for Domestic Violence against me?
Pamphlet 5 What happens in court?
Pamphlet 6 Personal Violence Restraining Orders

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The Youth Justice Court

The Youth Justice Court is established by the Youth Justice Act and hears charges against young offenders. A Youth is a person who is under the age of 18 at the time of being charged or appearing before the court. A Youth may be committed to the Supreme Court for trial or sentence if the offence is considered to be particularly serious. A Magistrate only may sit as the Youth Justice Court, although a Justice of the Peace may adjourn matters or hear bail applications when no Magistrate is available.

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The Family Matters Court

The Family Matters Court is established under the Community Welfare Act and makes orders in respect of the welfare or guardianship of children considered to be in need of care. The court is constituted by a Magistrate. It should not be confused with the Family Court, which is a federal court dealing with divorces, maintenance and custody of children.

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The Coroner

The office of the Coroner is established under the Coroners Act to investigate, and if necessary hold an inquest into, deaths occurring in unusual circumstances and disasters. Disasters are defined as occurrences which threaten to cause substantial loss of life or property, or threaten public safety.

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The Work Health Court

Each Magistrate is a Magistrate of the Work Health Court, established by the Work Health Act. The court has the power to hear claims for workers’ compensation and other matters referred to it under the legislation.

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Lands, Planning and Mining Tribunal

The Lands, Planning and Mining Tribunal is an independent statutory body established under the Lands and Mining Tribunal Act. The Tribunal is currently vested with jurisdiction in the following areas:-

  1. Making recommendations in respect of compulsory land acquisitions under the Lands Acquisition Act 1978.
  2. Decisions or lack of them by the Development Consent Authority under the Planning Act 1999.
  3. Compensation claims in respect of land compulsory acquired as a consequence of orders of the body which preceded the Tribunal.

Further information can be found here.

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Mental Health Review Tribunal

The Mental Health Review Tribunal was established under the Mental Health & Related Services Act 1998. It is an independent statutory body that has the power to make decisions about the care and treatment of people who have a mental illness or mental disturbance. The majority of Tribunal hearings are held to decide whether a person needs to be treated as an involuntary patient, either in hospital or in the community, in accordance with the Act.

Decisions made by the Tribunal are enforceable by law.

The Tribunal sits in Darwin and Alice Springs on a weekly basis. Tribunal hearings for remote locations may be held by video or telephone conferencing.

The Tribunal sits as a 3-member panel. It comprises a legal member (a qualified lawyer or Magistrate), a medical member (a qualified Psychiatrist) and a member with special interest or expertise in the area of mental health, who represents the general community.

For more information about the Mental Health Review Tribunal click here

Court and appeal structure

If you are unhappy with the result of your matter at the Magistrates Court you can appeal to the Supreme Court

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People in the courts – who does what profiles

The Magistrate

The Magistrate sits on the bench and it is their job to hear the case and decide on the verdict

Court Officer

The Court officer calls out the cases and handles documents between the Magistrate and parties. Court officers can assist in directing people to the appropriate areas

Technology in the courts

Video conferencing is available at the following locations:

  • Darwin
  • Alice Springs
  • Katherine
  • Tennant Creek
  • Nhulunbuy
  • Alyangula
  • Jabiru
  • Oenpelli (available through the town council)

For more details, see the Contact Us page

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