Unit 23 – Aspects of the legal system and law-making process Hierarchy of English courts
* Criminal and Civil law hierarchy
Types of cases
There are two types of cases that are dealt with in court which are criminal and civil. Criminal cases are cases that involve an individual breaking a law of the land and result with a jail sentence or community service. For example murder, rape and ABH. Civil cases are cases that involve disputes between people and usually end with a settlement of money. For example family disputes, contract breach and inheritance disputes. * Courts of the first instance
* Theses are the Courts that all cases have to start off in. For criminal cases it would be the Magistrates Court where they would be bailed with strict bail conditions or left in custody. For civil cases the court of first instance is the Small Claims Court for under £5,000 being claimed, County Court for under £25,000 or Court of Appeal for £25,000+.
Criminal Court structure
* Criminal law hierarchy
This court deals with mainly criminal cases but rarely civil cases. All criminal cases start off in the Magistrates’ Court and are heard by either lay magistrates or district judges. District judges are legally trained but lay magistrates are not, they do however have to be assisted by a legally trained clerk. Magistrate Courts will only hear cases that have happened in their area and can only administer punishment of up to £5,000 or 6 months imprisonment. If the crime requires more than what the magistrate can administer than the case will be passed on to the Crown Court. Jury can also move up the case to the Crown Court if the defendant asks for trial. Youth Court
The youth court is part of the Magistrates’ Court but only deals with cases where the defendant is between the ages of 10 and 17. If the case is serious enough that the defendant would receive 14 or more years then the case will move up to be heard in the Crown Court. Crown Court
The Crown Court mainly deals with cases that are more serious so need to be tried by a judge and jury. The other main types of case they deal with are cases that have been appealed by the defendant. For example if the defendant doesn’t think they received fair punishment at the Magistrates’ Court they are advised to appeal by their lawyer and the case will then be heard by the Crown Court consisting of 1 judge and at least 2 magistrates. One type of case that is dealt with quickly in the Crown court is cases that have been trialled in the Magistrates Court but then referred to the Crown Court for sentencing. High Court - Queen’s Bench division
The High Court has three divisions including the Queen’s Bench division, which is the division that deals with a minority of criminal cases. The Queen’s Bench division will only deal with appeals from the Magistrates’ or Crown Courts in serious cases. Court of Appeal (Criminal Division)
The Court of Appeal deals with both civil and criminal cases. The criminal cases that are dealt with are cases where the person/people who have been offended believe the punishment given was too lenient. The Court of Appeal Criminal Division also deal with points of law that are referred to by the attorney general after the defendant has been released in the Crown Court appeals. Supreme Court
This is the last court of appeal which means the decision of the Supreme Court will not be appealed any further. It generally only hears of cases that affect the whole population or a point of law that is specifically important e.g. when murder or rape is committed. In 2009 the current fee for appealing for Supreme Court was £1,000. Civil court Hierarchy
Small Claims Court
The Small Claims Court is usually the claimant’s local court and deals with cases that have a claim of £5,000 or less. These cases are labelled small claims track and are much simpler than fast track or multi-track cases. The small claims track cases...
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