Everything You Need To Know About Crown Court
Knowing the difference between the different types of courts here in the UK can be a bit confusing if you don’t know what each type of court is for.
We have the information on everything you need to know about crown court here in this article, from which court deals with what level of crime including the magistrates’ court, to the three types of crown court centres, so do keep reading for more information.
What Is the Crown Court?
The Crown Court of England and Wales is unlike the magistrates’ courts as it is a single entity. The Crown Court sits at 71 court centres across England and Wales.
Together with the High Court of Justice and the Court of Appeal from the Senior Courts in England and Wales.
The Crown Court mainly deals with appeals against conviction and sentencing of criminal offences that have been dealt with in magistrates court, including some serious criminal cases such as:
- When a defendant has been convicted in the magistrates’ courts but has been sent to the Crown Court for sentencing due to the seriousness of the offence
- Appeals against a decision of the magistrates’ courts
- Cases are sent for court trial by magistrates’ courts because the offences are ‘indictable only’ which means the Crown Court can only hear these trials, they are the most serious of offences and include murder, manslaughter and rape
- ‘Either way’ offences can be heard in a magistrates’ court but can be sent to the Crown Court if the defendant chooses a jury trial of the magistrates deem the case too serious and so sends the matter for trial to the Crown Court for trial. Either way, offences cover a wide range of crimes including theft, possession of drugs and ABH
On the other hand, less serious offences are known as ‘summary offences’ and these offences are the ones that can be tried by magistrates in the Magistrates Court.
The Three Types of Crown Court Centres
There are three different types of Crown Court centres based on the kind of work they deal with
and therefore are designated in one of three tiers, which are explained to you below.
First-tier centres are visited by the High Court Judges for Crown Court criminal and High Court Civil work. First-tier centres deal with both criminal and High Court civil cases and are served by High Court judges, circuit judges and recorders.
Second-tier centres deal with only criminal cases but are served by the same kinds of judges as first-tier centres.
Third-tier centres are not normally visited by the High Court Judges as they handle Crown Court criminal work only.
Summary of the Three Tiers
All cases start in the magistrates' court - with ‘indictable only’ offences the defendant will be sent to the Crown Court for trial. A defendant in an ‘either way’ case who chooses to plead not guilty can request a jury trial and therefore will be sent to the Crown Court.
If the defendant does not request a jury trial the magistrates themselves can decide to send them for trial in the Crown Court if the offence is serious enough and if the defendant pleads guilty to a serious ‘either way’ offence then magistrates can commit them to the Crown Court for prosecution.
Seriousness of Offences
The seriousness of offences in courts is divided into three classes of seriousness which include class 1 offences, these are the most serious offences, including treason and murder - and are generally heard by a High Court Judge. Indictable offences are more serious and must be tried by a judge and jury in a Crown Court
Class 2 offences include rape and are usually heard by a circuit judge under the authority of the Presiding Judge and Class 3 offences include offences such as kidnapping, burglary, grievous bodily harm and robbery, which are usually tried by a circuit judge or recorder.
As discussed, the Crown Court mainly deals with appeals against convictions from the magistrates’ court. A defendant convicted by the Crown Court can appeal against their sentence or conviction or both, the appeal is heard by the Court of Appeal.
Crown Court can either dismiss or allow the appeal and vary all or part of the sentence. Appeals are usually heard by a Circuit Judge sitting with usually two magistrates, and no more than four.
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