LAW01 Criminal Courts for AS AQA

This is a brief introduction to the Criminal Courts in the English legal system.

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AQA LAW AS EXAMINATIONS
Unit 1 LAW01 Law Making and the Legal System
CRIMINAL COURTS
1. The Magistrates' Courts in criminal cases.
Jurisdiction of the Magistrates' Court
Magistrates' courts play a significant role in our Criminal Justice System by
dealing with about 97% of all criminal cases. Magistrates' courts (1) try all
summary cases, (2) try any `triable either way' offences if it is decided these
should be dealt with in their courts, (3) deal with the first hearing of all
indictable offences ­ these are very serious offences which are then sent on
to the Crown Court.
Over 90% of defendants in the Magistrates' Courts plead guilty. It is then
up to the court to decide on the appropriate penalty.
Magistrates also deal with such matters as issuing arrest warrants and
deciding bail applications. Magistrates also try cases in the Youth Courts
defendants here are aged between 10 and 17 years of age. Young offenders
can be tried in the Crown Court when the charge is murder, manslaughter,
rape, and causing death by dangerous driving.
Procedure in the Magistrates' Courts
Every criminal case starts at the Magistrates' Court which is responsible for
hearing over a million cases every year. There are three kinds of offences ­
summary offences, `either way' offences, and indictable offences.
Summary offences can only be tried by magistrates. These are the least
serious offences and they are divided into five levels of seriousness, 1 being
lowest and 5 being highest. Fines range from a maximum of £200 to a
maximum of £5000. The maximum prison sentence is six months but the
Criminal Justice Act 2003 will empower magistrates to impose a maximum
prison sentence of 15 months.
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Either way' offences, sometimes referred to as `middling' offences can be
tried either by magistrates or by judge and jury at the Crown Court. In
`triable either way' offences, magistrates hear the defendant's plea of guilty
or not guilty before deciding on the venue (where the case will be heard.
This is called `plea before venue'.…read more

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Crown Court.
Appeals on a point of law may go to the Queen's Bench Division of the
High Court. The magistrates (or the Crown Court) are asked to state the
facts in the case, and their decisions. The QBD then discuss what points of
law are involved before they confirm, vary or reverse the decision. They
may also send the case back to the Magistrates' Court to implement the
decision on the law. This procedure is called `case stated' appeal.
2.…read more

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At a preliminary hearing, called a `plea and directions' hearing, all the
charges against the defendant are read out in open court. The defendant
must then plead `guilty' or `not guilty' to each charge. This process is called
the `arraignment'.
If the defendant pleads guilty, the judge will, if possible , sentence the
defendant immediately. If the defendant pleads `not guilty', the judge will
listen to the key issues, including points of law, presented by prosecution
and defence.…read more

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The Attorney General, acting on behalf of the Crown Prosecution Service,
can, with the leave of the court, appeal to the Court of Appeal against `an
unduly lenient sentence' under s36 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988.
Finally, the Criminal Cases Review Commission, under the Criminal Appeal
Act 1995, can investigate alleged miscarriages of justice.…read more

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Appeals from the Magistrates' Court to the Crown Court
1. To where can a defendant found guilty in the Magistrates' Court appeal?
2. On what grounds can the defendant appeal?
3. Does such a defendant need leave (permission) to appeal?
4. Who rehears his case in the Crown Court?
5. Having heard the appeal, what three options are open to the Crown Court
in relation to the verdict?
6. What three options are open to the Crown Court in relation to the sentence?
7.…read more

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Where are appeals from the Crown Court heard?
2. On what grounds can a defendant appeal?
3. Is leave (permission) required to appeal?
4. What actions may the Court of Appeal take in relation
to the sentence/punishment pronounced in the Crown Court?
5. Name three grounds for appealing against the conviction/verdict
reached in the Crown Court?
6. What four options are open to the Court of Appeal in relation
to the verdict reached in the Crown Court?
7.…read more

Page 8

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Every criminal case starts at the Magistrates' Court which is responsible for
hearing over a million cases every year. There are three kinds of offences ­
summary offences, `either way' offences, and indictable offences.
Summary offences can only be tried by magistrates. These are the least
serious offences and they are divided into five levels of seriousness, 1 being
lowest and 5 being highest. Fines range from a maximum of £200 to a
maximum of £5000.…read more

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He has an automatic right of appeal and does not need
leave (permission) to appeal.
The case is completely re-heard in the Crown Court before a judge and two
magistrates. They may confirm the original verdict, or they can decide the
case is not proved and reverse the decision. They may also vary the decision
and find the defendant guilty of a lesser offence.
With regard to the original sentence, the Crown Court can confirm the
sentence, increase it, or decrease it.…read more

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Under the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996, both the
prosecution and the defence must make certain disclosures to each other.
The prosecution, who have already provided the defence with statements
of all the evidence they propose to use at the trial, must also disclose any
previously undisclosed material in other words, they must not `hide'
something which could help prove the innocence of the defendant.…read more

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