In England and Wales, the Crown Court is a higher court within the criminal justice system. It deals with more serious criminal cases, including indictable offences (the most serious offences) and certain types of either-way offences.
Jurisdiction: The Crown Court has the authority to hear and decide cases that are beyond the jurisdiction of the Magistrates' Court. It deals with cases that are too serious to be heard by magistrates alone or cases where the defendant has elected for a trial by jury.
Structure: The Crown Court is composed of judges, barristers, solicitors, and a jury. The judges in the Crown Court are referred to as circuit judges or recorders, and they preside over trials and make decisions on points of law. The jury is made up of ordinary citizens who are responsible for determining the guilt or innocence of the defendant based on the evidence presented during the trial.
Indictable offences: The Crown Court has exclusive jurisdiction over indictable offences, such as murder, rape, serious fraud, robbery, drug offences, and other major criminal offences. These offences are more serious in nature and generally carry higher penalties.
Either-way offences: Certain either way offences can be tried in the Crown Court, depending on factors such as the seriousness of the offence, the defendant's criminal history, or the decision of the prosecution. The defendant may elect to have their case heard in the Crown Court rather than the Magistrates' Court for these offences.
Sentencing Powers: The Crown Court has wider sentencing powers compared to the Magistrates' Court. It can impose more severe penalties, including longer terms of imprisonment, higher fines, and other custodial sentences.
Appeals: Appeals from the Crown Court go to the Court of Appeal, which is a higher appellate court. Defendants convicted in the Crown Court have the right to appeal their conviction or sentence if they believe there are grounds for appeal.
Locations: Crown Courts are located throughout England and Wales. They are usually located in major cities and serve specific geographic areas.
The specific procedures and rules for the Crown Court can vary depending on the nature and circumstances of the case. Consulting legal professionals or referring to the relevant legislation and sentencing guidelines is crucial for a comprehensive understanding of the Crown Court and its processes in a particular case.
You can learn more about this topic with our Criminal Practice notes.