Magistrates Court vs Crown Court
UK does not have a single, monolithic judicial system, and while England and Wales have a common legal system, Ireland and Scotland have different legal systems. The senior courts of England and Wales were referred to as the Supreme Court of England and Wales till 2005. They comprise the Court of Appeal, High Court of Justice, and the Crown Court. There is a system of subordinate courts that comprises Magistrates Courts, Family Proceeding Courts, Youth Courts, and the County Courts. The difference between the Magistrates Court and the Crown Court does not remain confined to a higher and lower court system as there are many other differences that will be outlined in this article.
Magistrates Court stands at the lowest rung of the legal system in England and Wales. There is a bench that presides over cases pertaining to petty civil and criminal matters. The bench comprises three justices of the peace or a district judge. Many of the licensing applications are also heard in this court. The role of legal advisors in Magistrates Court becomes significant as the justice of peace are not trained in legal matters and often require the services of these advisory officers also called Justices’ Clerks. However, these clerks have to remain neutral and not exert any influence over the Bench.
Magistrates court can levy fines of up to pound 5000 and imprisonment of up to 6 months. Despite hearing cases of petty nature, Magistrates courts form the backbone of the judicial system in England and Wales, hearing almost 95% of the civil and criminal cases.
As described earlier, Crown Court forms an important part of the superior court system in England and Wales. It was established under Courts Act 1971 as a court for criminal cases of both original as well as appellate jurisdiction. After Supreme Court, the Crown Court is the most superior court as far as criminal cases are concerned. There are 92 locations around England and Wales where the Crown Court sits, and the administration of the day to day operations of these courts is under the aegis of HM courts service. Apart from original cases, Crown Courts also hear the grievances of people who are not satisfied with the sentences or verdicts given by Magistrates Courts. Crown Court has the power to confirm or reverse the orders of the Magistrates Courts. Another interesting feature seen with many cases being referred to Crown Courts from the Magistrates Courts is that of cases where magistrates feel that there is merit in increasing the sentence from 6 months to a longer period.
What is the difference between Magistrates Court and Crown Court?
• Crown Court is a superior court than Magistrates Court.
• Magistrates Court can levy fines of up to pounds 5000 and pronounce sentences of up to 6 months in prison only.
• Magistrates Court hears cases of petty nature whereas Crown Court is a superior court that has both original as well as appellate jurisdiction.
• Crown Court entertains appeals from magistrates Court.
• Trial at Magistrates Court is quicker and cheaper than a trial at Crown Court.
• Cases at Magistrates Court are heard by Justices of peace who are unqualified or district judges whereas there is a qualified jury comprising trained judges at Crown Court.