Magistrates’ Court in UK

Updated on Wednesday 27th July 2016

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A magistrates’ court in UK is the lowest court where all criminal cases begin being trialed. This type of court is made of either two or three magistrates (unqualified law justices) or a district judge. A magistrates’ court does not have a jury. There are approximately 430 magistrates’ courts in UK and in the future there is going to be one in nearly every town. 

Cases dealt by the magistrates’ court in the UK

The magistrates’ courts in UK deal with three types of cases, as stated below:

•    Summary offences: they are less severe offences, like monitoring offences or minor assaults, in which the accused does not have the right to be trialed by a jury. A criminal lawyer in London can offer more details in regards to this matter;

•    Either-way offences: these are cases which can be dealt by the magistrates’ court or by a judge and jury at a higher court (the Crown Court). These types of offences can be theft or handling of stolen items. A defendant can ask for the right to be trialed in a jury court, called a Crown Court in the UK. In the same time, the magistrates may decide that an offence is severe enough to be transferred to a Crown Court, where more serious punishments can be imposed; 

•    Indictable-only cases: These are offences which may be comprised of murder, manslaughter, robbery or rape, in which the magistrates’ court involvement is extremely short. These severe cases have to be trialed in a Crown Court.

Advantages and disadvantages of a magistrates’ court in UK

There are certain advantages and disadvantages of being trialed at a magistrates’ court in UK. Among the advantages of such a court, we mention:

•    The most important advantage to being trialed in a magistrates’ court in UK is that, for more severe offences, it has the authority to impose higher sentences to the accused, which will most likely stop that individual from committing any illegalities in the future;
•    It can hear a broader variety of cases, being able to deal with most issues.

As about the disadvantages of a magistrates’ court, these are:

•    The cases dealt by a magistrates’ court might prove to be too complex to be easily understood by the regular persons;
•    The costs which a magistrates’ court imply are much higher than those of a small claims court;
•    It can be more time consuming;
•    Such a court could issue more severe sentences than other smaller courts.

Our team of solicitors in London are experienced in handling cases which are trialed in a magistrates’ court in this country. Please contact us if you need legal assistance regarding defence in a magistrates’ court in UK.


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