Criminal Justice system

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Criminal Justice System

 

Classification of offences

 

1.     Indictable Offences – These are the more serious crimes and include murder, manslaughter and ****. All indictable offences must be tried at the Crown Court, but the first hearing is dealt with at the Magistrates' Court. The magistrate will decide if the defendant should be given bail. The case is then transferred to the Crown Court.

2.     Triable either way offences - When an offence is triable either way, the magistrates' court must decide, on hearing the initial facts of the case, if it should be tried on indictment rather than summarily (for example, because it appears to be a serious case). Even if they decide that they can deal with the matter adequately themselves, they must give the defendant the choice of opting for trial upon indictment before a jury. There are three exceptional cases, however:

v If the prosecution is being conducted by or on behalf of the Attorney General, Solicitor General, or Director of Public Prosecutions and they apply for trial on indictment, the case must be tried on indictment.

 

v If the case concerns criminal damage or any offences connected with criminal damage (except arson), and the damage appears to be less than £5,000, the case must be tried summarily.

 

v If the defendant is under 18, he must be tried summarily unless he is charged with (a) homicide; (b) an offence for which he is charged jointly with someone over 17, and it is thought necessary that they should be tried together; (c) a violent or sexual offence for which an adult could be sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment or more; (d) a firearms offence carrying a mandatory minimum sentence; or (e) certain other specified offences that can be punished by long periods of detention.

 

3.     Summary Offences - A summary offence, also known as a petty crime, is a criminal act in some common law jurisdictions that can be proceeded with, summarily: without the right to a jury trial and/or indictment (required for an indictable offence). In the United Kingdom, trials for summary offences are heard in one of a number of types of lower court. For England and Wales this is the Magistrates' Court. In Scotland, it is the Sheriff Court or District Court, depending on the offence (the latter being primarily for the most minor of offences). Northern Ireland has its own Magistrates' Court system.

 

The Process of taking a case through the criminal courts

 

The more serious criminal cases are tried on the basis of a document called the indictment -

·      The defendant is indicted on criminal charges specified in the indictment by the prosecutor.

·       In most cases, the prosecution is on behalf of the Crown (the State) and is handled by the Crown Prosecution Service, which takes the case over from the police who have already investigated most

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