Distinguishing Between Magistrates Court & Crown Court

Magistrates Court vs Crown Court

The UK does not have a single, unified judicial system; while England and Wales have a common legal system, Ireland and Scotland have different legal systems. The senior courts of England and Wales were known as the Supreme Court of England and Wales until 2005. They consist of the Court of Appeal, High Court of Justice, and the Crown Court. A system of subordinate courts includes Magistrates Courts, Family Proceeding Courts, Youth Courts, and the County Courts. The differences between the Magistrates Court and the Crown Court extend beyond a higher and lower court system, as there are several other distinctions.

Magistrates Court

The Magistrates Court is the lowest tier of the legal system in England and Wales. It features a bench that presides over minor civil and criminal matters. The bench is made up of three justices of the peace or a district judge. Many licensing applications are also heard in this court. The role of legal advisors in the Magistrates Court is significant, as justices of the peace are not trained in legal matters and often require the services of these advisory officers, also called Justices’ Clerks. However, these clerks must remain neutral and not exert any influence over the Bench.

The Magistrates Court can impose fines of up to £5000 and prison sentences of up to six months. Despite hearing minor cases, Magistrates Courts form the backbone of the judicial system in England and Wales, hearing almost 95% of civil and criminal cases.

Crown Court

As mentioned earlier, the Crown Court is an essential part of the superior court system in England and Wales. Established under the Courts Act 1971, it is a court for criminal cases of both original and appellate jurisdiction. After the Supreme Court, the Crown Court is the highest court for criminal cases. There are 92 locations around England and Wales where the Crown Court sits, and the administration of the day-to-day operations of these courts is under the supervision of HM courts service. In addition to original cases, Crown Courts also hear grievances from people dissatisfied with the sentences or verdicts given by Magistrates Courts. The Crown Court has the power to confirm or reverse the orders of the Magistrates Courts. Another notable feature is that many cases are referred to Crown Courts from the Magistrates Courts when magistrates believe there is merit in extending the sentence from six months to a longer period.

Key Takeaways

  • Crown Court is a higher court than the Magistrates Court.
  • Magistrates Court can impose fines of up to £5000 and prison sentences of up to six months only.
  • Magistrates Court hears minor cases, while Crown Court is a higher court with both original and appellate jurisdiction.
Gil Tillard
Gil Tillard
Gil Tillard is an accomplished writer with expertise in creating engaging articles and content across various platforms. His dedication to research and crafting high-quality content has led to over 5 years of professional writing and editing experience. In his personal life, Gil enjoys connecting with people from diverse backgrounds and cultures. His curiosity and eagerness to learn from others fuel his passion for communication. He believes that engaging with strangers can be both enlightening and enjoyable, making it easier to strike up conversations and expand one's horizons.


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