Criminal Process - Categories of Criminal Offences

  • Created by: jens6
  • Created on: 09-03-20 10:28

Categorizing Criminal Offences

1. Summary Offences (small, minor) - Tried in Magistrates Court; e.g. Assault.
*Common misconception that Assault means to beat someone up - Actually means that you put somebody in immediate fear of harm.
**Magistrates Court - limited powers - can only give up to 6 months in prison or a £5,000 fine.
2. Either Way Offences (bigger) - 
Tried in Magistrates or Crown Court; e.g. Assault occasioning actual bodily harm. 
*Not serious amounts of harm.
**Depending on severity of offence, it can be limited to Magistrates court power, or opened up to Crown Court - much more extreme sentencing rights.
3. Indictable Offences (serious) - Tried in Crown Court; e.g. Murder

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1. Magistrates' Court: 
- Court of first instance for all indictable and triable either way cases where the Magistrates' deem their sentencing powers sufficient and the defendent doesn't demand trial by jury.
- Sentencing powerrs of up to 6 months in jail and/or up to a £5,000 fine.
- Consists of 3 Magistrates' who aren't legally qualified, but trained and guided by a legally 
qualified clerk.                               

2. Crown Court:
- Court of first instance for cases 
where the Magistrates' deem their sentencing powers insufficient and/or the defendent demands trial by jury. 
- Sentencing powers are only limited by the offence [e.g. murder = minimum of life sentence].
- A judge and a 12-person jury hear the cases.
- Hears appeals against deisions of the Magistrates'.

3. Queen's Bench Divisional Court
- Only 1 criminal capacity; to hear appeals on points of law [where the defendent feels the law has been misinterpreted or applied wrongly from the Magistrates' Court.
- They will clarify the law then either confirm, vary or reverse the decision or or send it back to the Magistrates' to readjudicate.

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4. Court of Appeal 
- Hears appeals against decisions of the Crown Court.

- Cases either heard by a single judge or a panel of three.
- Defendent can appeal against sentence or conviction. 

5. Supreme Court
- Highest Court in UK, will only hear cases of public importance.
- Only hears cases on points of Law.
- Odd number of judges hear the case - usually 5, but can be as many as 9.
- Decisions are binding for all courts.

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