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Indictable Offence in England and Wales

In England and Wales, an indictable offence, also known as a indictable-only offence or an offence triable only on indictment, refers to a more serious criminal offence that can only be tried in the Crown Court. Indictable offences are typically more severe in nature and carry higher maximum penalties compared to summary offences.

Indictable offences encompass a wide range of serious criminal acts, including murder, rape, robbery, serious fraud, drug trafficking, and large-scale theft. These offences often involve more complex legal and factual issues, and they generally require a more formal and lengthy legal process, including a trial by jury.

When a person is charged with an indictable offence, his case is typically heard in the Crown Court before a judge and jury. The jury is responsible for determining guilt or innocence based on the evidence presented during the trial. The judge provides guidance on matters of law, and the jury's decision must be reached by a unanimous or majority verdict, depending on the specific circumstances.

The penalties for indictable offences are generally more severe and can include substantial fines, long-term imprisonment, life imprisonment, or other custodial sentences. The Crown Court has wider sentencing powers compared to the Magistrates' Court, which primarily handles summary offences.

It is important to note that some offences may have a hybrid or either-way nature, meaning they can be tried either summarily in the Magistrates' Court or on indictment 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.

You can learn more about this topic with our Criminal Practice notes.

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