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Categories of offence
Summary Offences These are the least serious offences and are always tried within the
Magistrates court. They include nearly all driving offences, Assault and Battery and Criminal
Damage worth less than £5,000. If a defendant pleads guilty, the Magistrates may sentence
immediately or they may request a presentence report. A not guilty plea will proceed to trial.
Triable Either Way Offences These are middle of the range crimes such as theft and ABH.
These cases can be tried in either the Magistrates Court or the Crown Court. The first stage in
deciding where a triable either way will be dealt with is known as Plea before Venue. This
means that the defendant is asked whether they plead guilty or not guilty. If he pleads guilty,
the defendant is automatically tried in the Magistrates court, although they can send the
defendant to the Crown court for sentencing. This is known as Committal for Sentence. Where
the defendant pleads not guilty, a decision will be made as to where the trial takes place. The
Magistrates will examine the case and state whether they are prepared to hear it. If they are not
prepared to hear the case, they will pass the case up to the Crown Court. If they are prepared to
hear the case, the defendant will then be given the choice as to which court they would like to
be tried in. Very often they will elect the Crown Court for reasons stated below. This procedure
is known as Mode of trial. Even where the case is going to be tried at the Crown Court,
preliminary matters are still dealt with at the Magistrates court.
Indictable offences These are the most serious offences and include offences such as
murder, manslaughter and rape. All indictable offences must be dealt with at the Crown court,
but the first hearing is still dealt with by the Magistrates Court.
Reasons for choosing trial by Jury
Defendants are more likely to be acquitted at the Crown Court than in the Magistrates
Court. The acquittal rate for the Magistrates Court is 20%. The acquittal rate is 60% of
the Crown Court.
Most defendants decide which court on the basis of advice provided by the lawyer. The
main factor influencing the advice was the higher chance of acquittal.
Some defendants, wished to serve part of their sentence on remand.
Defendants are also more likely to receive legal funding. This means that the state will
pay for legal representation.
Lawyers are more experienced in the Crown Court as opposed to the Magistrates
Where a defendant has been granted bail and imprisonment is likely, the waiting time
for the Crown Court will provide longer freedom within the community.
Reasons for not choosing trial by Jury.
If a defendant is on remand, this will mean a longer waiting time in prison.
If legal funding is not provided, the cost of lawyers are much more expensive. If the
defendant is ordered to pay prosecution costs, these will be much more than in the
The Crown Court has greater sentencing power, although the Magistrates Court can
commit for sentence.
The Magistrates Court will hear the case quickly and this may be preferable for a
defendant who is seeking a speedy resolution.
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Police powers to grant bail
The police may release a suspect on bail while they make further inquiries. This means that
they are released from police custody on the condition that they return at a certain time.
The police can also give bail to a defendant who has been charged with an offence. In this case
the defendant is bailed to appear at the local Magistrates court at a set date.…read more
Here's a taster:
Tina, aged 22 has been charged with dealing in heroin. She was caught with a
considerable amount of heroin in the back of the car. Tina has worked as a secretary
for the same employer since she left school at 16.…read more