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Legal System | Criminal Courts

Court Structure: Offences & Appeals

Model Answer | A Level

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Identify the different criminal courts, including appeal courts, that can hear criminal cases involving adults. Outline the types of criminal offences that are dealt with by these courts.

Magistrates' Court hear ninety six percent of criminal cases. They hear preliminary requests such as issuing arrest and search warrants and deciding on bail. For indictable offences, like murder, Magistrates' Courts conduct sending for trial hearings. Summary offences, such as assault or motoring offences, can be tried in a Magistrates' Court. Either way offences, such as theft or burglary, when tried summarily can also be heard.

Crown Court is both a court of the first instance and an appellate court. Crown Courts deal exclusively with serious criminal offences and hear indictable offences, such as rape and either way offences being tried on indictment, for example theft. Sometimes Crown Courts undertake sentencing on behalf of the Magistrates' Courts if a case is referred up due to insufficient powers. Additionally, Crown Courts can hear cases from Magistrates' Courts on the basis of appeal against conviction or sentence.

High Court (Queens Bench Division) hears appeals on a point of law: if there is an error of law, a court acted in excess of their jurisdiction or failed to exercise their jurisdiction in deciding a case.

Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) hears appeals. It does not hold a rehearing, but will consider written and oral arguments but rarely hear fresh evidence. The Court will only intervene in an appeal against conviction if shown to be unsafe or an appeal against sentence where it is shown to be wrong in principle or manifestly excessive.

The Supreme Court, the highest domestic court, hears cases on a limited right of appeal, only where a point of law of general public importance is certified.

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