English Legal System Coursework

One evening whilst drunk in a public house Dan, aged 25, made an unprovoked attack on Vince, striking him in the face. As he did this the glass in Dan’s hand shattered and Vince received a number of severe cuts to his face which required many stitches and which have since forced Vince to give up his lucrative career as a male model.

Dan is now being sued by Vince in the tort of battery and Dan is also being prosecuted for unlawfully and maliciously wounding with intent to do grievous bodily harm to Vince contrary to section 18 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861. Assuming that Dan exercises his rights of appeal to the full, explain the composition and functions of all the courts that would be involved in the hearing the civil and criminal cases. Answer 1 (1192 words) Criminal case Section 18 of the Offences Against the Person Act states.

Any person who unlawfully and maliciously by any means whatsoever wounds or causes any grievous bodily harm to any person with intent to do some grievous bodily harm to any person, or with intent to resist or prevent the lawful apprehension or detainer of any person, is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for life or for any shorter term. “Wounding or causing grievous bodily harm with intent is an arrestable offence… It is triable on indictment only.

It is a class 4 offence”2. Dan would appear before the Magistrates Court in the first instance either in Police custody or on his own accord after being granted Police Bail. At least two Justices or a District Judge would preside over the matter. Under section 51 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, there would be no committal proceedings and the matter would be sent forthwith to the Crown Court for first hearing3. Application for Bail would be heard at the Magistrates Court.

For class 4 offences, the presiding officer of the Crown Court may be “a High Court Judge, deputy High Court Judge, Circuit Judge, Deputy Circuit Judge or a Recorder”4. The first item of business would be a Plea and Directions Hearing (PDH), at which time Dan would be asked to enter his plea. Should Dan enter a plea of “guilty”, the Judge would either sentence him immediately or at a date set by the Court for such purpose. Bail may be applied for, in the latter case. Sentencing may be custodial and include fines to be paid and Criminal proceedings would be concluded at this point.

However if a “not guilty” plea were to be entered, the matter would then go to trial and a Jury of twelve members of the public selected at random from the electoral register would be empanelled. Prosecuting Counsel, usually a lawyer from the Crown Prosecuting Service would present the prosecution case. Defence Counsel would normally consist of a Barrister and an instructing Solicitor, but Solicitors with Higher Rights of Audience may, on their own, act as Defence Counsel.

Should Dan be financially unable to retain Defence Counsel, he may be appointed one from the Public Defender Service. However, if Dan so chooses, he can also act on his own behalf. During the case, witnesses would appear on behalf of the Prosecution and/or Defence, and would face cross-examination by opposing counsel. Counsel would end with closing statements, at which time the presiding Judge would sum up the case for the Jury and direct them on any point of law applicable. For this case, Prosecuting Counsel must prove beyond reasonable doubt that Dan had indeed wounded with intent.

The Jury would be asked to consider the evidence obtained throughout the trial, in addition to directions by the Judge and return with a unanimous verdict of either “guilty” or “not guilty”. Where a unanimous verdict cannot be reached, the Judge may ask the Jury to retire once more and endeavour to reach such a verdict. It may be the case where a majority verdict is accepted providing at least ten of the twelve jurors agree on a verdict. If the jury returns a verdict of “not-guilty”, Dan would be acquitted and all criminal proceedings would end.

If on the other hand, a verdict of “guilty” were returned, as stated above, the Judge would then sentence Dan according to the guidelines set for such offences, stating his/her reasoning behind the judgement. Dan may appeal his conviction on a point of law or fact, or an unduly harsh sentence by applying to the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division). The prosecution may also appeal to the Criminal Division of the Appeal Court if an unduly lenient sentence were passed. The Court of Appeal would be presided by at least three Lord Justices of Appeal.

In some cases, High Court Judges may assist in hearing appeals brought before the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal may set aside the judgement of the Crown Court because it was unsafe, or based on a wrong decision in law, or for some material irregularity. This in effect would acquit Dan. The Court of Appeal could also vary the conviction, if the jury had found Dan guilty of another offence other than the one he was charged with. Should a point of law of general public importance arise during Dan’s case, both Prosecutor and Defence may appeal to the House of Lords, the final appellate court in England and Wales.

The House of Lords would be presided by no less than three Lords of Appeal (Law Lords), each of whom would offer individual judgements. The final decision is based on a majority. Since the Human Rights Act 1988 came into effect, claims of violation of the European Convention of Human Rights would be heard in the UK courts, and not the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), based on the judgement in CILFIT v. Ministry of Health (Case 283/81)5. Dan’s case would most likely not have requisite conditions for hearing at the ECHR.