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Criminal Courts


Magistrates’ courts. The vast majority of all criminal cases are dealt with in the magistrates’ courts by magistrates, who are also known as Justices of the Peace (JPs). A magistrates’ court normally consists of three JPs (up to seven). They try the huge number of criminal cases which are brought for trivial crimes: motoring offences, petty theft, drunkenness, minor offences of violence and other breaches of public order. All these are summary offences.

. JPs have no legal qualifications. They receive no payment for their work. The clerks help them on points of law in deciding a case.

In some major cities, including London, there are District Judges in magistrates’ courts. They are qualified lawyers, work full time and are paid salaries. They sit alone and deal with more complicated cases. A person accused before a Magistrates’ Court may demand to be sent for trial before a Crown Court, even if the case is not serious.

Crown Courts.

Crown Courts act as the courts of first instance (trial courts) for serious criminal cases and the courts of appeal for Magistrates’ Courts. Only professional judges work in the Crown Courts: High Court Judges, Circuit Judges and Recorders.

High Court Judges usually try the most serious criminal cases. Circuit Judges try certain categories of serious criminal offences such as murder, rape, child abuse and fraud.

The judge presides over the trial, but the decision on guilt or innocence is made by a jury of twelve citizens. The judge's functions are, first, to see that the trial is properly conducted; second, to give guidance to the jury before asking it for its verdict; and finally, if the jury finds the accused guilty, to decide upon the penalty and pronounce a sentence.

Appeals against the decisions of the Crown Court may be taken to the Court of Appeal.



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  1. Civil Courts
  2. Commercial courts
  3. Courts of the subjects of the Russian Federation.
  4. Criminal Law
  5. Criminal Law
  6. Criminal Punishment
  7. E.g. The Appellate Committee of the House of Lords was independent, effective, inexpensive and was regarded as one of the finest courts in the world.
  8. Text 3. Treatment of Criminals
  10. Text B. TRIAL COURTS


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