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About the Criminal Justice System

There are three parts to the criminal justice system in NSW:

  • Police
  • Courts and alternatives to prison
  • Prisons and community offender management (parole )


Police powers include the following:

  • Stop, search and detain people
  • Enter and search premises and seize property
  • Arrest, detain and question suspects
  • Following arrest, lay charges within a four-hour period (but can request an eight-hour extension)
  • Charge suspects; when charged, a person can be released on bail or refused bail (if refused, the person will have to appear in court).

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There is a hierarchy of courts - Local Court, District Court and Supreme Court (all state government ) and High Court (federal government), as well as several specialist courts (e.g. Federal Court, Family Court).

Courts deal with a range of offences:

  • Summary offences (minor - usually heard in Local Court)
  • Indictable offences ( require a trial by jury and are heard in the District Court or Supreme Court, though details may be finalised in a lower court), and
  • Strictly indictable offences (more serious crimes at the District Court or Supreme Court level or higher).

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There are over 10,000 people in jail in NSW on any given day.

Approximately 80% of prisoners connect their AOD dependence to their offending behaviour and imprisonment.

60 - 80% of this group were intoxicated at the time of committing their offence.