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. When the offender is accused of a more serious crime a warrant will be issued to secure the persons arrest. There are three possible forms the trial can take according to the nature of the offence. The Criminal Law Act 1977 sets out three categories of offences:

* Minor offences, the vast majority of motoring offences, common assault, criminal damage where the value of damage is less than £5,000 etc. are triable summarily;

* Serious offences, murder, rape, robbery etc. are triable on indictment;

* Offences which are 'triable either way', theft, actual bodily harm, theft etc. In this case the magistrate's will decide which court the case should be heard in.

In the magistrate's courts all offences are tried summarily, without a jury, by a 'bench' of magistrates or a district judge. The 'bench' is made up of between two and seven magistrates, usually there are three. These magistrates are not legally trained; they are unpaid and tend to be prominent members of the community. They are referred to as 'lay' magistrates or 'justices of the peace'. District judges (known as Stipendiary Magistrates until August 2000) are qualified lawyers who are employed full time and salaried and must have at least seven years experience as a barrister or solicitor.
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Certain magistrate's courts are designed as youth courts. Such a court is composed of specially trained justices and deals only with charges relating to children and young persons under the age of 18. It sits apart from other courts and is not, unlike other courts, open to the public. It consists of not more than three justices including one man and one woman.

Once in court the defendant is asked to plead 'guilty' or 'not guilty'. Where a 'guilty' plea is offered, sentencing will begin. If the defendant pleads 'not guilty' a trial will begin. The prosecution ...

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