Our Motoring Offences team at Kang & Co Solicitors regularly represent clients both in the Magistrates’ Court and Crown Court. If you are due to appear in court, please contact us on 03452229955 or send us a message via our Contact Page and one of our specialist driving offences lawyers will be able to provide you with provisional advice.
As most of our clients are professionals and have never been involved with the Criminal Justice System, the experience of attending court can be daunting and confusing. We are often asked about the difference between the Magistrates’ Court and the Crown Court, therefore we have produced a simple explanation and distinction between the Magistrates’ and Crown Court.
The Magistrates’ Court
The Magistrates’ Court is the lower court and all criminal cases begin in this court.
In England and Wales there are about 23,000 active lay magistrates, they are called ‘lay magistrates’ because they are unpaid and usually they have no legal qualifications or background however, there is no restriction to lawyers volunteering as unpaid magistrates in their spare time. Most cases in the Magistrates’ Court are heard by ‘lay magistrates’ and they decide verdict (whether the Defendant is guilty or not guilty) and sentence (the punishment). Cases in the Magistrates’ Court are heard by 2 or 3 lay magistrates or a district judge. There is no jury in a Magistrates’ Court.
District Judge (Magistrates’ Court)
District Judges are legally qualified, salaried members of the judiciary and are appointed by the Queen upon the recommendation of the Lord Chancellor. A district judge will be an experienced Solicitor or Barrister and will hear a case sitting alone.
Summary only offences are less serious offences which can only be heard in the Magistrates’ Court because they are relatively simple offences. Offences such as speeding, careless driving, driving whilst disqualified, failing to stop / report an accident, driving without insurance and drink driving are all example of summary only offences.
Offences Triable Either Way
Triable either way offences can be tried in the Magistrates’ or Crown Court. If the magistrates accept that A triable either way offence is suitable to be heard in the Magistrates’ Court, then the defendant has a choice as to venue, this means that the defendant can choose to either have the trial in the Magistrates’ Court or the Crown Court.
If the magistrates decide that the circumstances of a triable either way case is such that it would be unsuitable, they will decline jurisdiction which would mean that the case will be heard in the Crown Court.
Offences such as causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving and dangerous driving are examples of triable either way offences.
Sentencing Powers (Magistrates’ Court)
If a defendant pleads guilty to an offence in the Magistrates Court, or is found guilty following a trial (convicted) the magistrates must pass an appropriate sentence. The sentence imposed is usually restricted to the sentencing guidelines for the offence, however the Magistrates’ Court can (depending on the offence) impose a prison sentence up to 6 months (or up to 12 months in total for more than one offence), impose a court fine and / or impose a community sentence (unpaid work).
The Crown Court
The Crown Court deals with more serious offences and appeals against a Magistrates’ Court conviction or sentence. The Crown Court usually has a jury which decides whether a defendant is guilty.
High Court Judges, Circuit Judges and Recorders may all sit as Judges of the Crown Court.
The Crown Court is a single court however, it sits in many different locations throughout the country. The Crown Court would then be referred to as The Crown Court sitting at Birmingham, The Crown Court sitting at Nottingham and the Crown Court sitting at Wolverhampton. An advantage of being a single court is that the Crown Court sitting anywhere in England and Wales may try any indictable or either way offence irrespective of where the offence took place.
Triable either way offences which are deemed unsuitable for the Magistrates Court or when a defendant elects for a trial in the Crown Court are heard at the Crown Court.
Indictable Only Offences
Indictable only offences are serious offences which can only be tried in the Crown Court. An indictable only offence will first appear in the local Magistrate’s Court and from there it will usually be referred to the local Crown Court.
Offences such as causing death by dangerous driving are indictable only and will be dealt with by the Crown Court.
Most trials at the Crown Court will involve a jury of 12 randomly selected members of the community who will hear the evidence in a criminal trial and decide on verdict. In the Crown Court, it is for the jurors to decide whether a defendant is guilty or not guilty.
Our experienced team of driving offence solicitors can represent you both at the Magistrate’s Court or Crown Court for trial and / or sentence.
We represent clients throughout England and Wales and the following Courts:
Birmingham Magistrates’ Court
Coventry Magistrates’ Court
Wolverhampton Magistrates’ Court
Dudley Magistrates’ Court
Walsall Magistrates’ Court
Derby Magistrates’ Court
Nottingham Magistrates’ Court
Leamington Magistrates’ Court
The Crown Court Sitting at Birmingham
The Crown Court Sitting at Coventry
The Crown Court Sitting at Derby
The Crown Court Sitting at Leicester
The Crown Court Sitting at Northampton
The Crown Court Sitting at Nottingham
The Crown Court Sitting at Warwick
The Crown Court Sitting at Stafford
The Crown Court Sitting at Wolverhampton