All criminal cases start in a magistrates’ court.
Cases are heard by either 2 or 3 magistrates and a district judge
There isn’t a jury in a magistrates’ court.
A magistrates’ court normally handles cases known as ‘summary offences’, eg: most motoring offences
minor criminal damage
being drunk and disorderly
It can also deal with some of the more serious offences, eg: burglary
These are called ‘either way’ offences and can be heard either in a magistrates’ court or a Crown Court
2. Crown Courts
A Crown Court deals with serious criminal cases, eg:
It also deals with:
appeals against a magistrates’ court conviction or sentence cases passed from a magistrates’ court for trial or sentencing
A crown court normally has a jury which decides if you’re guilty or not and has a judge who decides what sentence you get. Your solicitor can explain what exactly happens in the court. The judge and court staff will also give instructions about the trial.
HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) is responsible for the administration of the criminal, civil and family courts and tribunals in England and Wales and non-devolved tribunals in Scotland and Northern Ireland. It works independent judiciary to provide a fair, efficient and effective justice system.
4. County Court
County Courts deal with civil (non-criminal) matters.
Unlike criminal cases – in which the state prosecutes an individual – civil court cases arise where an individual or a business believes their rights have been infringed. Types of civil case dealt with in the County Courts include:
Businesses trying to recover money they are owed;
Individuals seeking compensation for injuries;
Landowners seeking orders that will prevent trespass.
The vast majority of civil cases take place in the County Courts.
5. High Court
The High Court has three divisions, which hear different types of case:
All three divisions have an appellate jurisdiction, which means that they hear appeals from other courts, as well as hearing “first instance” cases.
The Chancery Division of the High Court is presided over by The Chancellor of the High Court, with cases heard by 18 High Court judges. There is some overlap with the Queen’s Bench Division’s civil jurisdiction; however, certain matters are specifically assigned to the Chancery Division.
2. Queen’s Bench Division (QBD)
The President of the Queen’s Bench Division heads the QBD, which has both a criminal and civil jurisdiction.
Cases are heard by the President, and 73 High Court judges.
Judges who hear civil cases in the Queen’s Bench Division deal with ‘common law’ business – actions relating to contract, except those specifically allocated to the Chancery Division. They also hear civil wrongs, known as tort.
Judges who sit in the High Court can hear all cases relating to children and have an exclusive jurisdiction in wardship – a type of court order which gives custody of a minor (under 18) child to the court, with day-to-day care carried out by an individual(s) or local authority.
Judges in the High Court also hear appeals from family proceedings courts and cases transferred from the county courts or family proceedings courts.
The Supreme Court is the final court of appeal in the UK for civil cases, and for criminal cases from England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It hears cases of the greatest public or constitutional importance affecting the whole population.