How are Laws Enforced?

The courts

The courts in Australia are independent. A court will decide if a person has or has not broken the law and decide the penalty. Courts can only base their decision on the evidence before them.

Judges and magistrates

The judge or magistrate is the highest authority in a court. They are independent and no one can tell them what to decide.

Judges and magistrates are appointed by the government, but the government cannot take their jobs away if it disagrees with their decisions.


In Australia’s court system, people are considered innocent until they are found guilty in a court. Every person has the right to be represented by a lawyer in court.

A court will use a jury in some cases to decide if a person has broken the law. The role of a jury is to decide in court if a person is innocent or guilty. A jury is a group of ordinary Australian citizens randomly chosen from the general population. The judge explains the law to the jury. In a criminal trial, if the jury finds a person guilty, the judge decides the penalty.

The police

The police maintain peace and order in the community. It is their job to protect life and property. They are independent of the government. If the police believe that someone has broken the law, they can arrest them and bring them before a court of law. The police may give evidence in court, but the court decides if a person is guilty or not.

The states and the Northern Territory have their own police forces. They deal with crimes under state and territory laws.

Australia also has a national police force called the Australian Federal Police (AFP). The AFP investigates crimes against federal laws, for example, drug trafficking, crimes against national security and crimes against the environment. The AFP is also responsible for general police work in the Australian Capital Territory.

The police and the community have a good relationship in Australia. You can report crimes and seek assistance from your local police.

In Australia, it is a serious crime to bribe the police. It is a crime to even offer a bribe to a police officer.

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Part 1 - Australia and its people

» Australia's states and territories
» Important days for Australians
» Australia's flags and symbols

Part 2 - Australia's democratic beliefs, rights and liberties

» Our democratic beliefs
» Our freedoms
» Our equalities
» Responsibilities and privileges of Australian citizenship
» Participating in Australian society

Part 3 - Government and the law in Australia

» How do I have my say?
» How did we establish our system of government?
» How is the power of government controlled?
» Who is Australia's Head of State?
» Who are some of Australia's leaders?
» How is Australia Governed?
» What do the three levels of government do?
» What role do political parties play in the way Australia is governed?
» How is the Australian Government formed?
» How are laws made?
» How are laws enforced?
» Criminal offences in Australia

Part 4 - Australian values

» Our values
» Our community

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