Explain the role and functions of both the magistrate's court and the Crown Court.
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Explain the role and functions of both the magistrate's court and the Crown Court. The Criminal Justice System in England and Wales is a complex system of departments working together to deliver justice. It is comprised of several separate agencies which are responsible for various aspects of the work of maintaining law and order and the administration of justice. The Magistrates Court and the Crown Court are part of this system and they deal with the criminal cases brought before them by the Crown Prosecution Service, created in 1985. All cases initially go to the magistrate's court, for minor crimes the case is dealt with by summary trial, for more serious indictable offences the magistrates decide if there is a case to answer and then send it to Crown Court, where it is tried by a High Court judge with a jury. When a person is charged with an offence the police may hold them in custody until they can be brought before a magistrate. If the offence is minor and the offender is likely to appear in court if required they are bailed or a summons is issued which instructs the accused to appear at a named magistrate's court at a particular time.
It is still classified as a conviction. * Conditional discharge The offender must not commit another offence within a specified time. If another offence is committed the defendant can be sentenced for the original offence. * Deferred sentence Sentencing is delayed for up to six months, after which the case is re-assessed with regard to the conduct of the offender in that time. * Binding over The court can order the offender to keep the peace and to be of good behaviour in the future. Sureties may be attached to the order which can be forfeited if the convicted fails to keep the peace, even if no actual offence is committed. * Probation order The offender is allowed to remain in the community, under supervision. Conditions may be imposed such as remaining at a particular residence, or psychiatric treatment. If any conditions are breached the offender can be sentenced for the original offence. * Fine This is the most common sentence used by magistrate's courts. Non-payment can be punished by imprisonment even if the offence did not carry a prison sentence. * Immediate imprisonment The convicted is taken to prison immediately. * Suspended imprisonment A sentence of imprisonment is imposed but suspended for one to two years, to take effect only if the person is convicted within that time of an offence punishable by imprisonment.
The witnesses can be cross-examined by the defence. The defence then presents its own case in return and calls its own witnesses who are liable to be cross examined by the prosecution. The accused person can be called by the defence but is under no obligation to give evidence. The prosecution then makes its closing remarks, followed by the defence. Then the judge 'sums up' and reminds the jury of the most important parts of the evidence for and against the accused. If the jury find the defendant 'not guilty', he is acquitted. If he is found 'guilty' the judge proceeds to sentence him. The sentences available to the High Court judge are the same as to the magistrate but much more extensive, including life imprisonment and death. (Although the death penalty has been abolished for murder, it is still, theoretically, possible in cases of treason and piracy.) The far most common sentence handed out at Crown Court is immediate imprisonment; this is reflective of the seriousness of the crimes that are tried there. The role of both courts in society is to deliver justice, and by way of sentencing, protect the public from dangerous citizens and dangerous behaviour. It is important for our communities that justice is seen to be done, both for our peace of mind and as a deterrent for anyone tempted to fall foul of the law.
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