The most serious criminal offences are hear in the Crown Court. This is the court that most people will immediately imagine, with Judges and barristers wearing wigs and robes, and a jury hearing a case.
This page explains some of the key details of the Crown Court, to make the process less daunting.
What Cases Are Heard At The Crown Court?
In our introduction to the Magistrates’ Court, we explained the different types of offences:
- Summary only offences, which can only be heard by the Magistrates’ Court,
- Either way offences, which can be heard in either the Magistrates’ or Crown Courts, and
- Indictable only offences, which must be dealt with by the Crown Court
Either way offences and indictable only offences include the most serious criminal charges. It makes sense then that these can be dealt with by the Crown Court, which is more formal and has the power to pass longer prison sentences.
What are the Crown Court Procedures?
The most obvious difference to the Magistrates’ Court is that a case in the Crown Court will be heard by a legally qualified Judge, and not magistrates. This makes the hearings more formal, with Judges being called Your Honour (unless they are particularly senior, when they are addressed as Your Lordship or Your Ladyship).
If you are attending any court as a witness or a defendant, you should be respectful and dress appropriately. Lawyers appearing in the Crown Court will wear black robes and traditional white wigs.
Trials in the Crown Court are heard by a Judge and jury. Juries are made up of 12 members of the public who are selected randomly to take part in jury service. They will hear the evidence, and decide on the facts of the case. They then apply those facts to the legal directions given to them by the Judge. This is how they reach their verdict to decide if someone is guilty or not.
However, juries are not involved in passing sentence if they find the defendant guilty. That is the responsibility of the Judge.
What Powers Do Judges Have?
Unlike the Magistrates’ Court, there is no general limit on the sentences that a Judge can pass in the Crown Court. The only restriction that will apply are statutory maximum sentences for the specific offence being dealt with.
If a Judge is sentencing a defendant for 2 or more offences, they also have the power to impose consecutive sentences (running one after another). This will depend on the circumstances of the different crimes, as it may be more appropriate to impose sentences that run concurrently (at the same time).
The Judge also has the power to impose Community Orders and Suspended Sentence Orders. Every case will have unique circumstances, which is why it is important to have reliable legal advice from an experienced professional.
What If I Don’t Agree With The Outcome Of My Case?
Unlike in the Magistrates’ Court, there is no automatic right of appeal if you are convicted or sentenced in the Crown Court. These appeals are heard in the Court of Appeal Criminal Division:
- For the Court of Appeal to hear a conviction appeal, there must be a substantial procedural or evidential mistake that renders the conviction unsafe
- For an appeal against sentence, the Court of Appeal would consider whether the sentence passed was manifestly excessive or unlawful.
If you are considering an appeal against a Crown Court decision, you will need experienced professional advice. Contact us if you need to discuss a case like this.