Inferior Courts - Magistrates
Has some civil jurisdiction - largely administrative and domestic cases.
The courts administrative powers relate to civil debts on non-payment of bills, and taxes, etc.
They hear some family cases, such as; orders for protection against violence, maintenence orders, welfare for children, etc.
Sometimes deal with issues regarding licenses for the sale of alcohol, tobacco and betting, etc.
Inferior Courts - County Court
Created in the County Courts Act 1846 - meaning that local courts could have jurisdiction to settle small claims. Taking the pressure off of the higher courts.
Deals with Contract and Tort claims up to £50,000 (except libel cases)
Deals with:Undefended divorce, family law, probate, bankruptcy, taxes, land law disputes, etc.
Superior Courts - High Court
This court is divided into three divisions - QBD - Queen's Bench Division; Family division and Chancery division.
Queen's Bench Division - Broad Jurisdiction; deals with contract and tort, with some civil cases nd is headed by the Lord Chief Justice.
Family Division - Deals with matrimonial disputes where there is no suing; only interest for clarification on a point of law.
Chancery Division - Deals with matters of finance and is headed by the Lord Chancellor.
Claims Track System
3 tracks; Small claims, Fast-track and multi-track.
Small Claims - up to £5,000 claims or up to the value of £1,000 for injury claims. They are heard by a District judge and claimants are encouraged to represent themselves to keep a low cost.
Fast-track - Up to the value of £15,000. All cases are within a fixed, strict timetables that ensures the case will be completes in 30 weeks.
Multi-track - this track allows the transfer of cases between the county court and the high court.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Civil courts
- It is a compulsory process. There is no other process which effectively compels the other side to come to a forum to resolve a dispute.
- The formality of the procedure. The rules of evidence, disclosure and legal argument all ensure a fair process.
- Appeal Process. There is no other dispute resolution process with allows appeals.
- Legal Aid. Legal ain is still wiely available for court litigation.
- Law Making and Development. Only courts can make and develop legal rules through the doctrine on precedent.
- Enforcement of decision. Courts have a greater power to enforce their decisions.
- Too expensive. Lawyers are usually needed due to a cases certain complexity, therefore adding cost.
- Delays. These place intolerable psychological and financial stress on accident victims and defendants, etc.
- Injustice. A settlement usually tends to be reached before the litigants have even reached their trial.
- The adversial process. This encourages the cases manoervering rather than co-operation.
Criminal Offences clasification
There are 3 different classes for criminal offences.
Summary Offences - For minor offences such as theft. Only tries in Magistrates.
Either-Way offences - For serious minor offences such as ****. Can be tried in either Magistrates of Crown Court.
Indicatable offences - For Serious offences, such as murder. Can only be tried in Crown court with a judge and jury.
Magistrates - hear over 1m cases per year. All summary offences and most either-way offences. Youth courts, aged between 10 & 17. All Appeals go to the Queen's Bench Division.
Crown - Hearing cases from Magistrates, as well as all indictable offences and some of the more serious either-way offences. Class 1 offences are heard by a High Court Judge from QBD as well as some Class 2 offences. Less serious offences are heard by circuit judges or recorders. All crow court cases decisions are made a jury.
Court of Appeal - Criminal Division. The Lord Chief Justice presides. 3 judges create a panel; usually with the Lord Justice of Appeal and 2 senior High Court judges.