Magistrates court

The magistrates' court is the starting point for almost all criminal cases.

The Magistrates' Court is the starting point for almost all criminal cases and they will end up dealing with over 90% of them. More serious offences such as murder, rape and robbery are passed from the Magistrates' Court to be heard in the Crown Court.

Summary offences, either-way offences and indictable-only offences will all start in the Magistrates' Court. The Magistrates' Court will usually deal with all summary offences. Either-way offences can be dealt with in the Magistrates' Court or the Crown Court. It could be that the defendant chooses a trial before a judge and jury or the magistrates may decide the offence deserves a more severe sentence than they can give. The most serious of offences known as indictable-only offences will start in the Magistrates' Court and the magistrates will usually decide whether to grant bail but the case will be passed to the Crown Court.

Cases in the Magistrates' Court are usually heard by three magistrates but the longer and more complicated offences can be heard by a district judge.

Fines and prison sentences in the Magistrates' Court are less severe than those in the Crown Court.

There are about 330 Magistrates' Courts in England and Wales. The Crown Prosecution will bring most of the cases to court, other cases may be brought to court by agencies such as the RSPCA for cases involving animal neglect and cruelty and the Environment Agency for cases breaking environmental laws and regulations.

As there is usually no judge it will be the magistrate who will listen to the evidence at the trial and consider the evidence presented and decide whether the case has been proved beyond reasonable doubt. They will also deliver the sentence following sentencing guidelines and taking note of case law and any practice directions from the higher courts. They will also listen to a legally qualified adviser in court.

Magistrate' Courts also deal with many civil matters such as non-payment of council tax and the enforcement of financial penalties.


Criminal courts - GOV.UK

Courts and Tribunals Judiciary | Magistrates' Court

The Magistrates' Court - YouTube University of Derby




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