The present law that governs criminal offences in Western Australia is the Criminal Code Act Compilation Act 1913 which is known as the Criminal Code.
The criminal law is predominantly based in statutory law which is the Griffith Code (enacted for Queensland in 1899) and was later enacted in Western Australia in 1902.
The Criminal Code Act 1913 which is the criminal law of Western Australia was enacted in 1913 after amendments were made to the original code. Prior to the enactment of the Code, criminal law in Western Australia is based on common law.
Despite codification of the criminal law in Western Australia, the common law has remained an important source of law therein. And all offences are contained in legislation. The most serious offences are contained in the Code, and there are other offences established by other legislations such as Road Traffict Act 1974 (WA) and Misuse of Drugs Act 1981 (WA).
The Criminal Code of Western Australia and other Australian States with codified criminal law apply legislative provisions of the Code according to their natural meaning without regards to the interpretation under the common law.
The application of the common law interpretation is resorted only as a last recourse in instances of resolving ambiguity where the words to be interpreted have acquired a technical meaning outside of the Criminal Code.
Criminal Code imposed punishment for offences governed by it to members of the community violating its provisions to set rules prescribed by the State prohibiting certain conducts. The seriousness of a criminal offence is reflected in the maximum penalty imposed by the Code for the said offence. Differing degrees of seriousness are generally determined by the level of the harm caused and/or the culpability of the person who caused the harm or by the presence of aggravating circumstances.
In all criminal cases the onus of proof is on the prosecutor and the case must be proven 'beyond reasonable doubt'.
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