Friday, 15 February 2008

Magistrate's vs Crown Court

What will be taken into account by the Magistrates when deciding whether they can deal with an either way offence?

Under s19 Magistrates’ Courts Act 1980 the Magistrates will take into account the following matters:

  • The nature of the case
  • Whether the circumstances make the offence one of a serious character
  • Whether the punishment available to the Magistrates would be adequate
  • Any other circumstances which appear to the court to make the case more suitable to be tried one way or another
  • Representations made by the prosecution and defence

Advantages and disadvantages of being tried by the Crown Court

Advantages of being tried in the Crown Court:

  • Lower Conviction rate (juries more likely to acquit than Magistrates).
  • More appropriate procedure for dealing with voir dire hearings.
  • Availability of non means tested legal aid. Although to be eligible for legal aid the defendant still has to pass the interests of justice test. However, the defendant must be advised about the risks of a Recovery of Defence Costs Order (RDCO) should he be convicted.

Disadvantages of being tried in the Crown Court:

  • The Magistrates would deal with things more quickly.
  • The Magistrates is less formal and therefore less stressful.
  • If the defendant is convicted he will be ordered to pay prosecution costs which are higher in the Crown Court. In addition, he may be ordered to pay something towards his defence costs. Such defence costs will not be ordered in the Magistrates Court.
  • The Magistrates have lower sentencing powers (maximum of 6 months custody unless sentencing for 2 or more either way offences in which case the overall maximum is extended to 12 months).
  • The defence are not obliged to serve a Defence Statement in the Magistrates’ Court (s6 Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...