The courts and the criminal justice system

When a criminal case is taken into court, the criminal solicitor will assist the barrister in preparing the file and collating all the evidence required. The criminal justice system is designed in such a way that all the organisations that are involved in the criminal process work together seamlessly to reach a conclusion that is just to all parties involved.

What are the different courts involved in the criminal justice process?

The court system in the UK is relatively simple to understand. There is a civil law system and a correlating criminal law system. There is a hierarchy of courts which means that there is a system that needs to be followed. An individual will not be able to take a case directly to the high court – it will need to be referred from what is known as one of the lower courts.

The first division of courts or branches of courts that a case will have to be heard in is either the magistrates court or the Crown Court. The magistrates and Crown Courts hear all small and lower offence crimes, but sometimes the Crown Court can also try more high profile cases. This will be measured on a case by case basis.

The next level of courts that a case can be moved to if the judges are unable to deal with the case at Crown Court level will be the High Court. This is usually for criminal offences relating to murder and rape and the more serious offences.

What is the role of the judge and the jury?

The judge and the jury play crucial roles in the criminal court process. The jury’s role is to listen to the case as it is presented to them by the barristers for the prosecution and for the defence, and then to determine whether the accused person is indeed guilty or not guilty. There are 12 members of the jury and they are all laypersons, which means that they are not experienced in the law.

The members of the jury are chosen at random and it is a legal obligation that if a person is chosen to be part of the jury that they must attend unless they have a valid reason to deny their role. The members of the jury are required to take all the factual and physical evidence that is presented to them by both sides and then consider whether they all collectively agree that the accused is guilty. They will need to apply the surety test – the jury need to be sure beyond reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty before returning a verdict. All twelve members of the jury are required to agree and confirm that they believe the accused is guilty before the verdict can be given.

The judge will be required to pass a judgement based on the legal case that is presented before them and determine whether the accused is guilty on that basis. The judge will inform the court of the jury’s verdict at the same time as giving his decision.

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