Criminal Courts and Lay People

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  • Created by: Amy
  • Created on: 07-01-14 09:45

Summary Cases

  • Least serious offences
  • Alway tried in magistrates' courts
  • Examples include driving without insurance, common assault and criminal damages under £5000
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Triable Either Way Cases

  • Middle range crimes
  • Tried in either magistrates or crown
  • Examples include theft and assult causing bodily harm
  • Plead guilty - heard by magistrates
  • Plead not guilty - defendent has the right to ask for the case to be heard by crown
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Indictable Cases

  • Most serious crimes
  • Murder, manslaughter and ****
  • Only heard in crown
  • Preliminary hearing in magerstrates
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Magistrates Courts

  • 400 in england and wales - one in almost evey town
  • Cases with connection to it geographical area
  • heard by lay magistrates 
  • legally qualified clerk attatched to each court to assist magistrates
  • Large workload
  • try all summary cases and most triable either way - 97% of all criminal cases (2 million per yr)
  • Also have juristiction of: early admin hearing for indictable offences, youth court cases, warrants and bail
  • Appeal route - magistrate to crown: only available to defence, against conviction or sentence (if plead not guilty) pled guilty can appela against sentence - have an automatic right to appeal
  • Appeal to QBD -defendent or procecution on a point of law, QBD either agree or disagree with the appeal and can send it back or take it further
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Crown Court

  • 90 centers in england and wales
  • exclusivly serious cases
  • heard by a judge and jury
  • al indictable and small number of either way
  • Appeal to court of appeal - defence appeal on sererity of sentence and or point of law and procecution on leanience of the sentence and or point of law (can go to the supreme court if its on a point of law in general public importance)
  • Appela to QBD - appeal given by defendent in magistrates over sentencing or conviction to the crown, when the case is heard again in the crown a point of law comes up the appeal is taken to QBD 
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Lay Magistrates - Justice of the Peace

  • People who hear cases in the magistrates courts
  • Not legally qualified volunteers
  • 18 -65 years old
  • Live near the court
  • cant have serious criminal convictions
  • cant be a undischarged bankrupt
  • cant be hearing impaired or infirm
  • must be balance on the bench (three on the bench)
  • must be able to commit to 26 half days - part time
  • voluntry
  • hears 95% of all criminal cases 
  • vital role in criminal courts
  • have local knowledge
  • trained by magistrates national training initiative (sentence the same)
  • trained in sentencing and procedures
  • reflect society as a whole
  • 'middle age and middle class' 
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Key characteristics and qualities of a magistrates

1) Good Character

2) Understanding and communication

3) Social awareness

4) maturity snd sound temperment

5) sound judgement

6) commitment and reliability

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Appointment, Training and Removal


  • can put yourself forward
  • nominated by political parties or trade unions 
  • By Lord chancellor on behalf of the Queen on the recomendation of the local advisory committees
  • Local advisory committee made up of mainly ex-magistrates. max five members

Training: 4 basic competencies;

  • personal Development log of prgress
  • mentors and montored sessions
  • attend training sessions
  • appraisal


  • retitment age is 70
  • remove on the ground of: incapacity or misbehaviour. persistent failure to meet standards 
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Composition of Bench

  • 25,000 lay magistrates in the UK
  • 49% men
  • 51% women
  • good representation of ethnic minorities
  • tend to be older
  • 40% retired from work
  • Profesional backround
  • Middle aged, middle class
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Work of a Lay Magistrate

  • hear all summarty trials 
  • send cases tp crown court for trial Bail applications
  • Youth courts
  • Family courts
  • Licensing appeals 
  • Sit in crown in appeals from the Magistrates' court
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Advantages of Lay Magistrates

  • Cross section of society - system involves members of society, providing a wider cross section of society that would be possible with the ues of profesional judges. 

  • Local Knowledge - have to live or work near the court, should have local knowledge of the area and will have more awareness of local events, local patterns of crime and local opinions that a professional judge may not
  • Cost- unpaid volunteers, cost of replacing with judges is estimated at £100 million a year
  • Training - improved, not amateurs in what they are doing, decisions require common sence rather than professional training
  • Legal Adviser - magistrates clerk legally qualified, higher level of skill to the magistrate court, access to legal advice.
  • Few Appeals - few appeals against the magistrates decision, most made against sentencing. 2 million cases are hear, between 5,000 - 6,000 appeald and less than half of them are successful. 
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Disadvantages of Lay Magistrates

  • Middle age middle class - 40% retired and overwhelmingly from a professional or manigerial background. however wider than use of profesional judge.
  • Inconsistency in sentencing - different areas pass different sentences for similar offences, this has not improved despite equal training recieved. Example - burglary of dwelling 20% of offenders sentenced to immediate custody in Teeside compared with 41% of offenders in Birmingham
  • Reliance on Clerk - lack legal knowledge, need advice off legally qualified clerk. not allowed to help in decision of the case
  • Prosecution Bias - Magistrates tend to be prosecution biased believing on the police to readily. Training tries to eliminate this. If a police man brings someone in magistrate is more likely to listen to the police man than what is heard in the case.
  • Training - Inadequate for the workload, poor training is the reason for variation in sentencing
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Use of Juries

  • Criminal Court (crown court) MAIN USE
  • hear serious crime cases when the defendant pleads not guilty
  • decide verdict (guilty or not) judge law jury facts
  • 12 jurors - majority verdict
  • Civil Court (high and county court)
  • hear four types of cases: 
    • Defamation
    • False imprisonment
    • maliciouse prosecution
    • fraud
  • Decide liability and decideds amount of damages
  • 12 jurors
  • Coroners' Court
  • 7 - 11 jurors 
  • decide cause of death
  • when the death is: in custody, through police act of from notifiable disease
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Basic Qualifications: be aged between 18- 70, be on the elctoral register and have lived in the uk for at least 5 years.

May be unable to sit for the following reasons:

  • You are mentally disordered
  • Deaf
  • Disqualified permanently:
    • imprisoned for life or for public protection
    • you are serving an extended sentence or a term of 5 years or more
  • Disqualified for 10 years if at any time in the last 10 years you:
    • served a prison sentence
    • had a suspended sentence 
    • on bail
  • Excusal is you are a full time member of the armed forces (have the right to be excused)
  • Discretionary excusal if you have a good reason why you cannot sit eg too ill
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  • Central computer selects names at random from the elctoral list
  • summons for jury service are sent to the people selected
  • any one who cannot attend muct tell the court and give reason
  • if reason is good and accpted they may be excused
  • all the rest must attend or be fined for non attendance
  • at court 13 selected for each trial
  • individual jurors may be challenged for cause eg Knowing the defendant
  • whole panel may be challenged for biased selection
  • no right to challeng the panle over the fact its not multi racial
  • judge can discharged a juror if not capanle of being a juror
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Advantages of Jury Trial

  • Public confidence - fundermentals of a democratic society, tried by ones peers, public trust it, historic
  • Equity - not legal experts, not bound to followe any precidents, listen to the facts and make a judgement on the facts only. 
  • Open system of justice - makes the legal system more open to the public, justice served by members of the public, keeps law clear for both the jury and defendant
  • Secrecy - free from pressure in their discussion, protected from outside influence, freedom to ignore the strict letter of the law.
  • Impartiality - impartial and have no connection to anyone in the case, cross section of society. 
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Disadvantages of Jury Trial

  • Perverse Decisions - can make preverst and unjust decisions 
  • Secrecy - no reason has to be given for the verdict, no way of knowing of the jury understood the case and came to the decision for the right reasons - the facts in the case
  • Exceptions - R v Young jury all stayed in a hotel and used a ouiji board to come to a verdict than listen to the facts of the case.
  • Internet - google the defendant and judge them from that and not the case
  • Racial Bias - predudices to a coloured defendant. some may be biased against the police (one of the reasons criminals are disqualified
  • Media Influence - high profile cases, hard to not hear about it on the news and judge the defendant based upon that
  • Lack of Understanding - dont understand the facts of the case especially true in fraud cases, go with what everybody eles thinks due to lack of understanding
  • Tamping can take place 
  • High acquittal rates
  • Compulsory nature of it is disliked by many
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