LA1 - Courts

Revision cards containing key acts, cases and info on Criminal and Civil Courts and its appeals

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Criminal Courts

2 main criminal courts - Magistrates and Crown Court

Magistrates' Court:

  • 400 courts across the country but this is decreasing due to lack of funding
  • The trial is tried by a panel of 3 magistrates who are lay people or by 1 high court judge (yet this only happens in major cities)
  • All summary cases and 1st hearing of triable either way (tew) and idictable cases. Magistrates hear 2m cases p/a
  • They also hear youth cases in private, whereh the panel is one man and one woman magistrate aged 60 yrs and over.
  • There is an automatic appeal to the Crown court only for defence.
  • However, if the case is on a point of law, the case can be reffered to the Queens Bench Division and then back to the Crown Court for a final desicion eg. C v DDP (1994)
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Criminal Courts (2)

Crown Courts:

  • 90 courts in England and Wales
  • 3 tiers to Crown Courts in order of importance, 1st tier meaning indictable cases and tew cases are heard here, permantly staffed with hight court judges, 2nd tier meaning the same but in large towns instead and staffed with high court, circuit and recorder judges and lastly 3rd tier meaning tew cases are heard only and staffed by circuit and recorder judge.
  • 80,000 cases are tried in the Crown Court
  • Appeals are based on the grounds of the Defendent and Prosecution. The grounds of appeal for the D are simplified under the Criminal Appeal Act 1995 where an appeal is granted if it would be unsafe for no appeal to happen ONLY
  • Prosecution grounds of appeal happen in 2 situations - if there was a case of 'jury nobbling' or if there is new evidence
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Civil Court

2 main civil courts - county and high court

County Court:

  • 230 courts in major towns
  • Tries nearly all civil cases - claims, contract and tort, recovery of land, disputes over partnerships
  • In defamation cases, it is possible (albeit rare) to have a jury of 8. This happens where there has been malicious prosecution
  • Circuit or district judges

High Court:

  • Based in London but there are jduges sitting in 26 courts in towns and cities throughout England and Wales. There are 3 divisions - Queens Bench, Chancery and Family divisions
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Civil Courts (2)

Queen's Bench Division:

  • 70 hight court judges
  • Contract and tort cases
  • Claims can start at £25,000 but the usual claim is over £50,000
  • There is a right for jury trial for fraud, libel, slander and mailious prosecution. There are 12 members

Chancery Division:

  • 18 High court judges
  • insolvency, mortgages, trust property, copyright, probate cases
  • Heard by a single judge and there is never a jury
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Civil Cases (3)

Family Division:

  • 18 high court judges
  • it has jurisdiction to hear wardship cases and any cases dealing with children under the Children Act 1989
  • heard by a single judge and today, no juries are used.

Appeals depend on the court and the type of judge which heard the case. Appeals in county court stay in the same court but heard by a differerent type of judge. So, if the 1st hearing was heard by a district judge, then the appeal is heard by a circuit judge. Same if the case was heard by a circuit judge, then the appeal is heard by a high court judge. However, there is straight appeal from High court to the Court of Appeal. The grounds of 2nd appeals from the County Court to the Court of Appeal are set out in the Access to Justice Act 1999 - appeal would raise an important point of law and there is another compelling reason...

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Civil Cases (4)

...However, if the claim was multi-track and there would be a straight appeal from the county court to the court of appeal. There is also a possiblitity of of a leap-frog appeal to the supreme court, if the case is on a point of law. This comes under the Administration of Justice Act 1969. The only time a case is referred to the ECHR is when an article is breeched.

Woolfe Reforms - this highly criticised the civil proceedure as Lord Woolfe stated 303 reccomendations in his report, Access to Jusice (1996)! It showed that the civil courts were unequal, expensive, slow, uncertain and complicated.  Later when Labour came into power in 1997, they also produced the 'Middelton report' which had the same and at last under the Civil Protection Act 1998, the Civil Procedure Rules, 1999 were produced. The main reforms - pre-a3 tracks, judges to actively manage cases, pre-action protocols (a list of things judges had to do before court), Simplier language (plaintiff = claiment), greater use of IT and greater use of ADR. CASE= Vinos v M&S plc (2000), judges&cases.

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