Understanding the Australian Legal System

This past week in BCM113, we began learning about the Australian Legal System, or at least we tried to understand it. Personally I find legal terminology and just the whole concept of laws difficult to comprehend. I never took legal studies during high school, simply because I never enjoyed any of it. So this is me trying to simplify what we were taught so that you reading this post will be able to understand what we learnt in class in simple terms.

The Sources of Law

If you are like me and you never really understood governments and laws, the first thing you should know is that there are 2 sources of laws- Statute law and Common Law. Statute Law is legislation that has been passed by state, territory and federal governments. In other words statute law has been approved by state, territory and the federal government. Common Law on the other hand is decided by judges in court.

The Categories of Law

Before you ask, YES there is a difference between sources of law and the categories of law. The 2 categories of law in Australia are divided into Criminal Law and Civil Law. Criminal Law can be remembered as an offence that has been committed against the state. It deals with crime and legal punishment against criminal offences e.g. murder, a highly criminal offence that is punishable by law. Civil Law deals with disputes between individuals or organisations or even against one another. An example of civil law is a breach in a contract or damage to property.

What is Contempt of Court?

Contempt of court can be simply defined as an act that has the intention to interfere with authority, performance or dignity of the courts or those who participate. Contempt laws are also separate from other kinds of laws. Rudeness and discourtesy by legal practitioners will not be considered contempt.

What are Injunctions and Suppression Orders and How do they fit into contempt laws?

An injunction is a court order that directs a person to do or not to do something specific while a suppression order stops any information about a case being disclosed. Suppression orders ensure a fair trial is held and helps protect defendants and witnesses from being harassed by the media during a trial. Injunctions fit into contempt laws as they lead to disobedience of contempt Suppression orders fit into contempt law under ‘sub-judice’ through the publications of material that could prejudice a trial or potentially interfere with the administration of justice, scandalising the court through any publication that could undermine public confidence in the court, revealing any juror’s deliberation or revealing closed court details, improper behaviour or again disobedience in court can all lead to suppression orders.

Although I have no real prior knowledge about the Australian Legal System, I am truly excited to see what else I learn in this class.


Reference List

Burrows, M. 2018, What is an Injunction?, [online], Dundas Lawyers, viewed 18th of March, https://www.dundaslawyers.com.au/what-is-an-injunction/

Overview of the Australian Legal System (n.d.), viewed 18th of March 2020, https://www.dlsweb.rmit.edu.au/Toolbox/legal/OFFICE/T00/T00_A/T0_LESY.html

The News Manual, 2019, Contempt and court reporting in Australia, viewed on 18th of march 2020, http://www.thenewsmanual.net/Resources/medialaw_in_australia_03.html

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