|Criminal Court System - England and Wales|
The Magistrates Court is the lowest tier of Criminal Court in England and Wales. 95% of cases are completed in these courts.
Cases in the Magistrates Court are usually heard by a panel of three Magistrates (known as Justices of the Peace, or Lay Magistrates.) These panels are made up of members of the public who are advised by a legally qualified solicitor or barrister known as a Legal Advisor to the Justices. However, some courts have District Judges who are legally qualified Magistrates who sit alone and deal with more complex or sensitive cases, for example cases arising from serious fraud.
Criminal cases involving children and young persons will be heard separately in Juvenile Courts.
The Crown Court deals with the most serious criminal cases such as murder and rape, as well as those 'either-way' cases transferred from the Magistrates’ Court. It also hears appeals against decisions of the Magistrates Court as well as cases sent for sentencing from Magistrates Courts.
Trials are heard by a Judge and a 12-person jury. The jury is directed on matters of law by the Judge but makes the decision as to guilt or innocence.
Court of Appeal (Criminal Division)
The Court of Appeal, which sits in London at the Royal Courts of Justice, consists of two Divisions; The Civil Division and The Criminal Division.