The Magistrates Court can hear, determine and sentence on charges for offences which are defined as summary offences or indictable offences. The definitions are contained in the Summary Procedure Act 1921. While the definitions are complicated, these are generally offences which carry a maximum of five years imprisonment.
For serious offences where the penalty can exceed five years imprisonment, the Magistrates Court conducts a preliminary examination to determine if there is enough evidence to put the defendant on trial in a higher court. This preliminary examination is called a committal hearing. If the magistrate determines that there is enough evidence to sustain the charge, the defendant is committed to stand trial in either the District Court or the Supreme Court, depending on the seriousness of the charge.