Criminal cases come to court after the police decide to file a complaint in the Magistrate’s Court. The person against whom a criminal complaint is brought is called a Defendant.

All criminal matters are brought to the Magistrate’s Court in the first instance and if the complaint is within the jurisdiction of the Magistrate, the Magistrate will take control of the matter or send it to the Supreme Court. More serious offences, such as murder, gun offences and rape, are considered only in the Supreme Court.

The law and evidence of criminal cases in the Magistrate’s Court are generally heard by the Magistrate alone and he/she decides whether the prosecution has made out its case against the Defendant. The Magistrate’s sentencing power is limited by section 16(5) of the Magistrate’s Court Ordinance to handing down sentences of no more than 2 years’ imprisonment and a fine of $10,000.

In the Supreme Court, the evidence in a matter is often, though not always, considered by a jury. The judge is in charge of considering the law in the matter and will advise the jury on the law as necessary, during the trial. The Supreme Court’s sentencing jurisdiction is unlimited.

Appeals against conviction in the Magistrate’s Court are considered by the Supreme Court and appeals against conviction in the Supreme Court are considered by the Court of Appeal.