What is an indictable offence and how is it brought to trial?
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ASSIGNMENT C 1. What is an indictable offence and how is it brought to trial? An indictable offence is the most serious category of criminal offence. It includes offences such as murder, wounding with intent, abducting children and arson. By definition, an indictable offence must be tried on indictment, this being a formal charge of having committed one of the most serious criminal offences such as murder. It is contained within a Bill of Indictment, which sets out the charges that the accused is alleged to have committed. A Bill of Indictment is a written accusation issued by the Crown Prosecution Service in the name of the Queen (the Crown)
The magistrates' court thus acts as a filter for the Crown Court with respect to indictable offences by preventing unsuitable cases going forwards. It may soon be the case, according to the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, that defendants charged with indictable offences are sent straight to the Crown Court for prosecution without a preliminary hearing in the magistrates' court. Crown Court cases can either be held before a judge or a judge and a jury. Firstly, a plea and directions hearing will be held to determine the key aspects of the case. A further trial will only be held before a jury if the defendant pleads not guilty.
Indictable offences have been classified into four categories by Lord Taylor CJ in his Practice Direction of May 1995. For example, Class 1 includes murder, genocide and treason and Class 2 includes manslaughter, infanticide, illegal abortion, rape and so forth. As well as strict indictable offences, there are some more moderate offences such as theft and burglary which can be tried either on indictment or summarily (in the Magistrates Court), depending on the result of the preliminary investigation called the Mode of Trial hearing. Such cases are given the name 'triable either way offences'. Although they can be tried summarily in some cases, triable either way offences technically fall under the category of 'indictable offence' since they have the potential to be tried on indictment. ?? ?? ?? ?? TMA (C) Rebecca Milburn Page 1
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