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  • Level: GCSE
  • Subject: Law
  • Word count: 3361

The criminal process

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The criminal process is often a very complex one. There are many decisions, which need to be made, and these can have a big effect on the resulting trial. The most important ones tend to take place after the suspect has been charged but before the accused gets to trial. These include the decision to prosecute, granting of bail, plea-bargaining and the court in which the case will be tried. These decisions are as important (if not more important) than the resulting trial. The decision whether to prosecute is usually the first step taken once the suspect has been charged. The decision to prosecute is vital to the pre-trial decision procedure as it establishes whether the prosecution believe there is a realistic possibility of conviction by 'sifting out' cases, which they do not think, would be worth prosecuting. Prosecution is defined as: 'The pursuit of legal proceedings, particularly criminal proceedings.'1 Prosecution takes various forms; in criminal cases it is usually in the name of the crown e.g. R v an individual. Summary offences are in the name of an individual, usually a police officer, although a private individual may bring a prosecution e.g. for assault. Until relatively recently the police took the decision to prosecute an offender. However, the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) 1984 removed this power from the police and recommended that an independent prosecution body should be set up which would make the decision as to whether to prosecute. It was thought that an independent prosecuting body would be more specialized to deal with prosecuting offenders. Although in some cases the Inland Revenue/Customs and Excise still make the decision whether to prosecute and not the CPS. The proposal was adopted and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) was set up under the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985. The CPS came into operation in 1986. The CPS prosecutes 95% of Crown Court and 25% of magistrates' courts cases. ...read more.


37 (1) (b) of the Criminal Justice Act 1948) and people convicted or sentenced by the magistrates' court and seeking an order to quash that decision (s.37 (1) d of the 1948 Act). As mentioned, being granted bail is not a certainty and the accused, depending on the circumstance, may not be granted bail. However, in all cases where bail is refused the reasons should be given. The decision to grant bail is usually reviewed every eight days. An application against the refusal of bail should be made within 28 days. If you are unsatisfied with the way you have been treated you can appeal to the High Court (as discussed above). Bail is an important part of the pre-trial criminal procedure for a number of reasons. For instance, being released on bail allows you to further prepare your case and ensure that you get all the (extra) legal help you need. In addition, the granting of bail has an even greater significance with the passing of the HRA 1998, especially Article 5, which relates to the right to liberty and security. In accordance with this, unless there are any circumstances, which prevent bail being granted, bail should be granted regardless of whether an application has been made. The 'presumption of innocence' (innocent until proven guilty) as defined by the HRA also needs to be taken into account when considering whether to grant bail. On the other hand, being released on bail has its disadvantages. For instance the defendant may be subjected to (verbal) abuse from people who think the defendant is guilty of the offence (even without trial) and should not have been released - this can have an adverse affect on the defendants' reputation. Finally as regards bail, the Criminal Justice Act 2003 will have an impact on the granting of bail however the changes proposed will be implemented gradually between now and 2006. ...read more.


51,000 11,000 266,000 19,000 The statistics below also show the outcome of 'triable either way' cases which are committed to the Crown Court for trial, for the year 1999: Defendants in 'either-way' cases committed to Crown Court for trial Case terminated in advance of trial Not convicted (inc jury acquittals and judge ordered/ directed acquittals) Convicted 58,0009 2,000 13,000 43,000 There are important advantages to the cases being tried in magistrates' court. Your case will be heard sooner. Procedures are simpler and less costly than a Crown Court trial. Similarly, the Crown Court has its advantages. There is a higher acquittal rate. Furthermore, a trial by jury could be seen as a direct link between the ordinary citizen and the administration o justice. On the other hand, if you are found guilty by a Crown Court then the sentence imposed is likely to be far harsher than a magistrates' court. A big disadvantage of the magistrates' court though is that the magistrate has no formal legal training and so may not understand the law. Recently passed legislation such as The Courts Act 2003 will also have a big impact on offences triable either way as it sets out guidelines as to how to determine which cases should be sent to the Crown Court. So, in conclusion, these are only some of the main decisions, which are made pre-trial. This would tend to support the statement and show that the criminal justice system is not dominated by the trial. However, the pre-trial decisions discussed here should not be viewed in isolation from each other or the resulting trial. It is a combination of all the factors leading up to the trial and the trial itself which make the criminal justice process what it is and help to ensure that 'justice is not only done but is seen to be done'. The Criminal Justice Act 2003 was also passed and this will have a big impact on all aspects of the Criminal Justice System, including bail. ...read more.

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