The English Legal system
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Criminal courts Magistrates court Youth court Crown court Cases in criminal courts are brought by the Crown Prosecution Service
Civil courts County court High court Cases in civil courts are brought by private citizens (or companies) referred to as claimants
Appeal courts From Crown or County Court to Court of Appeal (either criminal or civil) From Court of Appeal to UK Supreme Court In certain circumstances from Supreme Court to European Court of Justice Citizens may appeal against decisions of lower courts to higher courts in certain circumstances.
Legal Personnel Two types of lawyers Solicitors – represent clients in lower courts and undertake general legal work eg drawing up contracts and wills. Solicitors also ‘instruct’ barristers. Barristers – Represent clients in higher courts and are usually experts in a field of law
Court personnel Magistrates courts Lay magistrates – Judge cases in magistrates courts usually groups of three on the “bench”. Unpaid and members of local community rather than trained lawyers Stipendiary magistrates – (District judges) Professional lawyers who are paid to sit as full-time magistrates Clerk to the court – The clerk has legal training and can assist the magistrates with advice on points of law
Court personnel Crown court Judge Presides over trial Ensures fair conduct and gives rulings on points of law Sums up evidence at end of trial and may direct the jury eg as to possible verdicts and points of law Passes sentence Most judges are former barristers
Court personnel Crown court Juries Consist of 12 people aged 18-70 Drawn from electoral registers in local community Certain occupations are exempt but the number of these have been reduced in recent years The jury decides on the guilt of the accused based on evidence presented and following guidance from the judge about the law
Court personnel Civil courts Civil courts are always presided over by a judge In a few civil cases juries are used eg defamation cases but judges usually sit alone (or in threes in higher courts).