Crown Court Listings
Crown court listings are simply lists of cases that are heard by a court in any one day. The majority of criminal cases will start proceedings in a magistrate’s court. Offences which are less serious (summary offences) will be dealt with entirely in the magistrate’s court, but more serious offences are managed by the crown court where a judge and jury will be present.
Anyone can view Crown Court Listings by visiting any court. The listings will generally be posted in reception and each court in the building will have a list of the cases to be heard in that court.
There are four main duties of the Crown Court;
- Hearing cases of a serious nature
- Hearing appeals from magistrates courts
- To hand down sentencing for defendants in a magistrates court
- To coordinate trials
The Function Crown Court
The Crown Court will have many functions and they will usually hear the following types of case;
- A very serious criminal offence such as murder, robbery, manslaughter, rape or robbery
- What is known as an ‘either way’ offence which has been transferred from a magistrate’s court. If an offence can be heard in a magistrate’s court, it is sometimes deemed to be more suitable for them to be handled in crown court.
- Where an appeal is made in the magistrate’s court
This would occur when a decision over sentencing is transferred from the magistrate’s court. This could occur if a magistrate decides that the offence demands a more serious punishment or sentence than they are permitted to give.
Crown Court Staff
In the crown court you will find a number of different individuals including the judge, jury, defendant, barristers for the prosecution and defence, members of the public, the press, ushers and witnesses.
The Defendant – This is the individual who has been charged with the offence. In a criminal case, the law will assume that the defendant is innocent until they are proven guilty in a crown court. Furthermore, their guilt must be proved beyond reasonable doubt by the prosecution team.
Judge – Applying the law to the case, the judge will summarise the case to the jury and issue or discharge sentencing on the defendant. If the defendant is found guilty it is at the discretion of the judge as to the length of their sentence. If the defendant is found not guilty they will be discharged and no convictions will be recorded against them.
Jury – A panel made up of 12 randomly selected members of the public who must review the evidence and determine whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty
Barristers – There will be two sets of barristers in the crown court including those for the prosecution and defence. If defendants make a plea of not guilty the prosecution and defence will form opposing sides. The prosecution must be able to demonstrate that they can produce sufficient evidence to convince the jury that the defendant is guilty of the offence.
A defence doesn’t have to prove that the defendant is innocent. Instead they make the argument that the prosecution have not provided a strong enough argument to convince the jury that the defendant is guilty. The prosecution and defence can call witnesses, present evidence and state opposing versions of the case but there are very strict rules as to how this is carried out.
Witnesses – These are people who provide evidence during a trial. There are usually four different types of witness; a witness for the defence, a witness for the prosecution, a character witness or an expert witness.
Ushers – An usher will be responsible for taking oaths from a witness or jury member. Witnesses will promise to tell the truth and a jury member must agree to give the defendant a fair trial
The Press and the Public – Criminal trials will usually take place in an open court which is open to the press and members of the public to attend
The setup of a Crown Court is very similar to one that you may see on the television during a court case. The Judge who oversees proceedings will be seated on a raised area set higher than the rest of the court. Addressed as ‘Your Honour’ throughout proceedings, the Judge will lead the courtroom and when they enter it is usual for everyone present in the courtroom to stand.
A Clerk of the Court will be seated immediately in front of the Judges bench, facing the court. The Clerk is the only individual in the courtroom who is permitted to distribute written messages. Typically this occurs during sentencing and the Clerk will collect the written verdict from the Jury and then pass this to the Judge. Clerks will also assist in many other areas of the court so will be familiar with the court structure and setup.
Within the court itself there will also be a reporter, but not in the conventional sense. A court reporter is a professional who is responsible for recording anything verbal in the courtroom. This is useful if the court goes to an appeal. Voice recordings are made using a piece of equipment known as a stenograph.
The court may also have one or several Ushers. The Usher will be responsible for handing any documents to relevant parties in the court. There will also be Barristers who will lead the legal proceedings on either the side of the defence or prosecution. Barristers must stand when they are addressing a member of the courtroom.
It is usual for the defending barrister to be located near the jury. The witness box will be located directly opposite the jury.
Defendants will remain seated in the dock with a custody office nearby and behind the defendant is usually a small area for the public to sit. Members of the press will be seated in a designated area for journalists.
Outside of the courtroom is a smaller room where the jury will deliberate to reach their verdict.
Crown court listings are used so the court staff can prepare and they know what is happening and when.
Seriousness of the offence
As outlined above, the crown court will only deal with certain types of offence. Each offence will be assigned to a class or category and this will determine the type of judge who will preside over the case in court.
Class 1 offence will include the most serious offences such as treason or murder. The judge in these cases will be from the High Court
Class 2 offences will include those such as rape and are usually led by a circuit judge who has the same authority as a Presiding Judge
Class 3 offences incorporate all of the other crown court offences such as burglary, GBH, kidnapping and robbery to name a few. These cases will be led by a recorder or circuit judge
The Crown Court can also deal with appeals for offences which have been heard at the Magistrates court. They can also deal with sentencing for certain offences or orders such as driving disqualification or an Anti Social Behaviour Order.
Crown Courts also have the power to permit or deny an appeal or amend sentencing for an offence. An appeal will usually be reviewed by a Circuit Judge and a maximum of four magistrates. Crown Court listing will also be made available to the public.
About the author:
This article was written by a member of the Expert Answers legal advice team. Expert Answers provides online legal advice on all aspects of UK Law to users in the United Kingdom.