CRIMINAL COURTS UK: This page explains the crimes that criminal courts deal with and the different levels of sentences they can give out.
What is the Criminal Court?
A criminal court has legal jurisdiction to conduct trials for offenders of criminal law. The court can ‘try‘ the offenders and then punish those who get found guilty of breaking the law.
The UK Government files cases in criminal courts. A case can get filed against anyone for committing a crime.
A person accused of committing a crime is the defendant. The government’s role is proving that the defendant is guilty. High standards in the United Kingdom mean any guilt must get proven ‘beyond a reasonable doubt‘.
UK Youth Court
What is a youth court? Youth courts are special types of magistrates’ courts and they get used for people aged 10 to 17 years old.
A youth court has no jury but there will always be either:
- 3 magistrates.
- A district judge.
Your parent or a guardian must go with you to a youth court if:
- You are under 16 years old.
- You are 16 to 17 and they get given a court order to attend.
Difference between Youth Court and Magistrates Court
As a rule youth courts are a lot less formal than adult courts. For example:
- The defendant gets called by their first name.
- Members of the public need permission to sit in a youth court.
Youth Court Types of Cases
Youth courts deal with cases which include:
- Anti social activities and public disturbances.
- Burglary and theft.
- Drugs offences.
The UK court system handles serious crimes by young offenders differently. Serious cases, such as rape or murder, start in a youth court but then get passed over to a Crown Court.
Youth Court Sentencing UK
Youth courts can deliver a range of sentences which determines how sentences are worked out, including:
Appeal Against Sentence Youth Court
In some cases you can appeal against the sentence handed out by a youth court. The staff working at the youth court can provide you with extra information on how to make a youth court appeal.
UK Magistrates’ Court
All criminal cases first start at a magistrates’ court. There is no jury in a magistrates’ courts but the cases get heard by either:
- 2 or 3 magistrates.
- A district judge.
Magistrates Court Types of Cases
As a rule magistrates’ courts handle cases known as ‘summary offences‘ which include:
- Almost all motoring offences.
- Minor criminal damage.
- Drunk and disorderly conduct.
The court can also deal with some of the more serious offences such as:
- Burglary and theft.
- Drugs offences.
These ‘either way‘ offences can get heard either at a magistrates’ court or a Crown Court.
Note: You can use the online court finder to search for your local magistrates’ court.
Cases Magistrates Pass to the Crown Court
UK magistrates’ courts always pass the most serious criminal crimes ‘indictable offences‘ to the Crown Court which include:
- Armed Robbery
What is an Indictable Offence UK?
England and Wales are common law jurisdictions. That means an indictable offence is one which can only get tried on an indictment after a preliminary hearing.
The preliminary hearing determines whether there is a prima facie case to answer by a grand jury. So that means UK indictable offences are in contrast to a summary offences.
Kept in Custody or Granted Bail
In certain cases the magistrates’ court will decide whether you should be:
- Kept in custody (e.g. at a police station or a court cell)
- Granted bail and released on strict conditions (e.g. to stay away from specific named people or places)
One of those two situations will happen if:
- There is a need for another court hearing.
- The court needs more information before passing sentence.
- Your case gets passed to the Crown Court for trial or sentencing.
Magistrate Court Sentence Types
A UK magistrate court can give out punishments which include:
- Up to 6 months in prison (or up to a total of 12 months for more than one offence).
- A fine of up to £5,000.
- Different types of community sentences such as Community Payback (carrying out unpaid work in the community).
Note: Magistrate courts can also combine several punishments (e.g. hand out a fine as well as unpaid work in the community). They can also pass your case to the Crown Court for sentencing if the court decides your sentence should be for longer than 6 months.
Appeal Against Sentence or Conviction Magistrates Court
In some cases, you can appeal a verdict by a Magistrates’ Court in the United Kingdom. Check further information explaining exactly what the Magistrates’ Court appeal process involves.
Crown Court in the United Kingdom
Crown Court Case Types
A Crown Court deals with the most serious criminal cases including:
- Armed robbery
Crown Courts also deal with:
- Appeals made against a magistrates’ court sentence or conviction.
- Cases passed from a magistrates’ to Crown Court for trial or sentencing.
Note: You can use the online court finder to search for your local Crown Court.
Xhibit Crown Court Centres Daily Status
You can view a list of Crown Court cases and hearings each day on the daily court status. The online web facility ‘http://xhibit.justice.gov.uk‘ means you can check their progress on the court lists.
Crown Court Roles
UK Crown Courts usually have a jury and a judge.
- The role of the jury is deciding if the defendant is guilty or not.
- The role of the judge is deciding what sentence the defendant will get punished with.
Note: If you have a solicitor they can explain what happens in court. But, the judge and court staff will also give instructions about the trial.
Crown Court Sentences
A Crown Court can give a range of sentences which include:
Appeal Against Sentence or Conviction Crown Court
In some cases you can appeal a verdict by a Crown Court in the United Kingdom. Check further information that explains exactly what the Crown Court appeal process involves.