Criminal Courts

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Criminal Courts

Pre-trial matters
There are three categories for offence in criminal courts, the categories are…
-Summary Offence (less serious offence like common assault, tried in the magistrates court)
-Triable either way offence (moderately serious offence such as theft, tried in either court)
-Indictable offence (serious offence such as murder or ****, tried in the crown court)

The process for deciding where a triable-either way case will be heard
- The plea before venue is held at the magistrates court. The defendant is given the opportunity to plead guilty or not guilty. If the defendant pleads guilty, the case is automatically heard in the magistrates court but the option is retained to send the case to the Crown Court if the case becomes too serious.

-If the defendant pleads not guilty then a mode of trial must take place to decide where it is best for the trial to be heard.

-The Magistrates must decide whether they feel the case is suitable to be hear heard in the Magistrates Court. If they feel the case is not suitable then the case is transferred to the Crown Court.

-If the Magistrates feel prepared to accept jurisdiction of the case, the defendant is given the choice of which court they want to be tried in.

Why choose the Magistrates Court?
-There are restrictions on the possible penalties. The maximum fine is £5000 and the maximum prison sentence is 6 months for one offence and 12 months for many.
-The Magistrates court is much faster than the Crown Court, most cases are dealt with in just one day
-There is less publicity at the Magistrates court which could benefit the defendant as they may not want the case to be publicised.
-The court proceeding in the Magistrates Court is far less traumatic and daunting.

Why choose the Crown Court?
-There is a higher conviction rate in the Magistrates Court. The acquittal rate in the Crown Court is 50% but only 20% in the Magistrates Court.
-Legal funding is less likely in the Magistrates Court but in the Crown Court legal funding is an option
-If the defendant is not granted bail then the time they spend in custody will be removed from their sentence if they are sentenced to an imprisonment
-Even if the defendant does decide to go to the Magistrates Court then the Magistrates may find the case is too complex and could send the case to the Crown Court to be heard trialed

Should the defendant be given the chance to choose?
-It costs the state a lot more to have jury trials rather than Magistrates trials as Magistrates are a lay workforce
-The chance of getting a jury trial for a triable-either way offence has been limited as the government has changed some offences that were triable-either way offences to summary offences. Therefore the amount of unnecessary jury trials has been decreased.
-The House of Lords feels the option for a jury trial should stay a

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