- Slides: 8
Magistrates Courts Powers and procedures
Magistrates’ powers u u They can sentence a person for up to 6 months for a single offence and 12 for two sentences consecutively They can fine up to £ 5, 000 Also impose suspended sentences, absolute or conditional discharges, community orders and fines. They grant bail in most cases – usually with conditions – residency, curfews, tagging, reporting to the police and sureties.
Types of cases u u u Summary offences – minor offences with no rights to jury trial. If he pleads guilty, the prosecution will outline the case and the defence will offer mitigation. He may ask for previous crimes to be “taken into consideration”. (Not to be confused with previous convictions. ) A pre-sentence report will often be necessary before sentence. If he pleads not guilty there will be a “summary trial. ” There may be pre-trial hearings which are subject to reporting restrictions under the Magistrates Court Act. The trial will be in similar form to a Crown Court trial – prosecution opening, witnesses called, cross-examination, defence witnesses called, cross-examination, then the magistrates retire to consider their verdict. If guilty, a pre-sentence report will probably be called for.
Types of cases 2 u u u Either-way offences are those which can be heard in either Magistrates or Crown court. A “plea before venue” process happens first. If he pleads guilty the case will stay in magistrates court – though he may be sent to Crown court for sentence if magistrates consider their powers insufficient. If not guilty, or no plea is entered, the magistrates will decide if they “accept jurisdiction” or if they believe he should go to Crown court. If the former, he is asked if he elects summary or jury trial. If it’s summary, then the case will be adjourned for a trial before magistrates – see above. Clearly a different bench will sit. If he elects jury trial there will be an adjournment followed later by a committal hearing – however, under a system being phased in in 2012 - 2013, he will be “sent” for trial without the need of a committal hearing. ALL preliminary, pre-trial and committal hearings are subject to the reporting restrictions of Section 8 of the Magistrates Court Act – the “ 10 points”.
Types of cases 3 u u u Indictable-only offences are the most serious ones which MUST go to Crown court. We therefore assume a jury trial and are restricted in what we can report in order to avoid prejudicing future jurors. These case appear usually just once before magistrates before being “sent” – not committed – for trial. We are governed by the “ 10 Points” of the Magistrates Court Act – see Mc. Nae p. 66. We stretch these 10 points very slightly – they don’t include a defendant’s dress or demeanour, but we do report them – very carefully. We also often report lawyers’ protestations of innocence. These restrictions can cease if the defendant requests it, if there is insufficient evidence for a trial and when proceedings are concluded.
THE 10 POINTS These are automatic reporting restrictions in Mags Court on any hearing with the potential of a jury trial. They’re designed to prevent prejudice of a jury. u They cover basic details of the charge, who’s who in the court, the next step forward and arrangements as to bail. You never give reasons for refusal of bail as it’s inevitably prejudicial. u YOU NEED TO BE FAMILIAR WITH THE 10 POINTS – IT’S A FAVOURITE EXAM QUESTION! u
Types of cases 4 u You need to get your terminology right. u Either-way offences which are going to jury trial are either “committed” to Crown court – or “sent” if the new system applies. Indictable-only offences are “sent” to Crown court. A small number of cases – including serious fraud and crimes involving a child – may be “transferred” to CC under a special fast-track procedure. All these restrictions apply in exactly the same way to serious cases in Youth court where they may be a jury trial. u u u
Crown Court u u u The main function of a Crown court is a hear criminal trials – with a jury. (They also hear appeals from magistrates courts against verdict or sentence. ) A CC trial follows a similar structural process to summary trial (see above) but it’s the jury which decides the verdict – the Judge rules on the law and decides the sentence. The jury consists of 12 people drawn at random from the electoral roll. (Mc. Nae p. 75 for types of Judges). The jury is expected to return a unanimous verdict – if this is impossible the Judge may accept a majority verdict of 11 – 1 or 10 – 2. If a defendant is convicted by a majority verdict we report it – if he’s acquitted by a majority we don’t. It means somebody still believes he’s guilty.