Determining proper venue

An issue particular to the summary jurisdiction is proper venue. The term is defined at s 3 of the Magistrates’ Court Act 1989.

proper venue —

a) subject to paragraphs (c) and (e), in relation to a criminal proceeding or a class of criminal proceeding, means the mention court that has been nominated by the Chief Magistrate under section 5A for the proceeding or class of proceeding, but in the absence of any such nomination is the mention court that is nearest to—

i) the place where the offence is alleged to have been committed; or
ii) the place of residence of the defendant;

Gahan v Frahm[1999] VSC 410 is one case dealing with proper venue. It decided that if a charge is filed at a venue other than the proper venue, the Court doesn’t lack jurisdiction. Similarly, if the accused is summonsed to a venue that isn’t the proper venue, the best they can hope for is an adjournment (perhaps with costs) to the proper venue.

When the Criminal Procedure Act 2009 commences operation, ss 6 & 11 will explicitly provide that charges can be filed at any venue, but should be heard at the closest venue to the offence location or accused’s address.

Until then, we still need to concern ourselves with the proper venue for filing and hearing charges.

A really useful feature on the recently upgraded Magistrates’ Court of Victoria website is the Proper Venue page.

Select any suburb or town in Victoria (by name or postcode) and it’ll show you the relevant proper venue the Magistrates’ Court. (I haven’t found any glitches in the software yet…touch wood.)

I’m not sure if it would be the last word in a dispute about proper venue, but it beats by a mile getting out a copy of the Melway and a ruler.

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