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High Court Criminal Jurisdiction

All criminal cases, whether indictable (serious) or summary (non-serious) start in the Magistrate Courts. By virtue of section 4(1) (a) of the Criminal Procedure Decree 2009, all indictable offences are triable only in the High Court, for example, murder, treason, manslaughter, genocide, crime against humanity, rape, aggravated robbery and aggravated burglary. Criminal trials in the High Court are conducted by the Judge being aided by a panel of 2 to 5 assessors. Assessors function like a jury, but the Judge decides whether or not an accused is guilty.

The High Court also hears any criminal appeals against any order, judgment or sentence by the Magistrate Court. It may also determine a question of law from the Magistrate Court via a case stated. In its supervisory role, the High Court may call for any record of any Magistrate Court Criminal proceeding to satisfy itself that any order, finding or sentence had been done in accordance with the law, and it may confirm, reverse, vary or make any other order, to do justice to the case.

In the criminal division of the High Court, there are four (4) major jurisdictions:

  • Criminal Jurisdiction
  • Appellate Jurisdiction
  • Miscellaneous Jurisdiction
  • Revisional Jurisdiction
  1. Criminal Jurisdiction
    All indictable criminal offences are transferred from the Magistrate Court for trial in the High Court. Some indictable offences are triable summarily, and on these types of cases, the accused chooses a High Court or Magistrate Court trial. If he chooses a High Court trial, the case remains in the High Court. The Director of Public Prosecution’s Office furthers the proceedings by filing Information and Disclosures and trial is conducted in the presence of Assessors. Upon finding of guilt of an accused person, the High Court may pass a sentence that is authorized by the Sentencing and Penalties Decree 2009, and other written laws.
  2. Miscellaneous Jurisdiction
    This jurisdiction caters for the following applications; Eg. Bail application, an application for stay of proceedings, leave to appeal out of time, extradition, etc. Applicants are required to file their respective applications by way of Motion and Affidavit or by filing prescribed forms.
  3. Appellate Jurisdiction
    Cases for appeals from the Magistrate Court are filed under this jurisdiction; 28 days is given by the subordinate court to file an appeal to High Court; Appeals are filed against the decision of the lower court; Appellants are to file Petition of Appeal at the Magistrates’ Court for preparation of Court Records and determination of appeal.
  4. Revisional Jurisdiction
    A defining feature of this jurisdiction is that the Courts are vested with power (under section 260 and 262 of the Criminal Procedure Decree 2009) to revise the decision of the subordinate court on their own accord without waiting for an application to be lodged by any person. This can be done on the basis of similar grounds for appeal or where it appears that there is a miscarriage of Justice (is suspected).

Media Release

Keynote Address by Chief Justice Anthony Gates
at the Opening of the Fiji Law Society's Convention
"Fundamentals of Private Practice" 25th September 2015,
Novotel, Suva

Click here to view/download the speech.