Magistrates’ Court in UK

Updated on Thursday 15th November 2018

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A magistrates’ court in UK is the lowest court where all criminal cases are 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. If you have been accused of offences in UK, it is strongly recommended to ask for the legal services offered by a criminal defence solicitor in London.

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. At 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.

Here is a video presentation about the cases dealt by the Magistrates' Court in UK


Advantages and disadvantages of a magistrates’ court, presented by our criminal defence solicitors in London

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 magistrates’ court in UK has the authority to impose higher sentences to the accused, for severe offences, 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.

Decisions of magistrates’ Court in UK

The magistrates’ court in UK has the possibility of passing certain cases to the Crown Court. These usually deal with serious crime cases like robbery, rape or murder. On the other hand, the magistrates’ court can decide on whether an offender can be kept in police custody or can be released on bail under certain conditions imposed by the authorities. As for the sentences a magistrates’ court can grant, these can be up to six months for a single offence or one year for more offences. Community sentences and fines can be granted by this court to offenders accused and found guilty of crimes in UK. We remind that any decision made by the magistrates’ court can be appealed to the Court of Appeal in UK, but it is strongly recommended to talk to your criminal lawyer in London for complete legal support, as he or she knows the case and the implications.

Youth courts in UK

Minors accused of offences in UK are trialed in the youth courts where at least 3 magistrates and a district judge are in charge of such offenders and related cases. It is good to know that such court has no jury, and the minor needs to be supported by a parent or a tutor in front of the authorities. The cases of minors who broke the law are considered serious in UK and are treated in accordance. Parents are recommended to get in touch with a criminal defence solicitor in London as soon as the child has been accused of certain crimes.

Our team of criminal solicitors in London is 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.