The United Kingdom's Court System

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The United Kingdom's Court System In the trial process in England and Wales is adversarial. In the magistrates' courts, magistrates determine guilt or innocence. In the Crown Court, a jury of twelve ordinary citizens will decide.. The prosecution must prove its case beyond reasonable doubt. The prosecutor will make his case first by calling and examining witnesses. These are then cross-examined by the defence. The defence is not obliged to call evidence and the defendant is not a compellable witness. Any witnesses called by the defence may be cross-examined by the prosecution. The court also has the power to call any witness, other than the defendant. Generally, evidence is oral and given under oath to the court by the witness concerned. However, documentary evidence is admissible in certain circumstances. Subject to exclusionary rules, all evidence which is sufficiently relevant to the facts or issue is admissible. After the prosecution and defence closing speeches in the Crown Court, the judge will give the jury directions on the law and a summary of the evidence. He will then invite the jury to retire and to reach a unanimous verdict. The jury can be asked to give a majority verdict (either 10-2 or 11-1) if they have considered the verdict for a reasonable time and cannot come to a unanimous decision. The jury can be discharged from giving a verdict if they are unable to reach a majority decision. In these circumstances, the prosecution has discretion to seek a re-trial. F1 MAGISTRATES COURTS PROCEEDINGS The procedure in the magistrates' court is primarily governed by the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980. Commencement Proceedings are either commenced by arrest, charge and production to the court, either on bail or in custody, or by the laying of an information followed by the issue of a summons or a warrant. The information sets out details of the offence; where the defendant is charged by the police the charge sheet forms the information. If the defendant is held in custody he/she must appear before the magistrates' court as soon as practicable and in any event at the first sitting after being charged (thereafter he can be remanded for up to four weeks at a time before attending court again). A defendant may be released on bail. The granting of bail is governed by the Bail Act 1976 and the Bail (Amendment) Act 1993. Court Procedure - Summary Offences. The defendant is asked if he pleads guilty or not guilty.

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