The role of Magistrates includes dealing with both criminal offences and civil disputes, however 95% of cases that Magistrates hear are criminal.
Magistrates will hear all 3 types of offence: Summary, Either-way and Indictable.
A decision will be made in the Magistrates' Court on conviction and sentencing (although Magistrates have limited power on sentences - see later).
The case will begin in the Magistrates Court with a hearing which will include the plea of the offender; if the plea is 'guilty', then the Magistrates will decide if they have the power to deal with the offender's sentence, if they do, they will sentence the offender, and if not, there will be a trial in the Crown Court. If the defendant gives a plea of 'not guilty' then the Magistrates' Court will hear details of the incident and decide whether they are guilty or not guilty. If the decision is 'guilty', then the defendant may choose which court their case is heard in if the Magistrates have the power to sentence fairly.