Participants in legal proceedings

A case, depending on the severity can take many routes through the structure of the legal system. The more severe the crime the higher the court that the trial is settled in; minor offences such as petty crimes are usually settled in the Magistrates court, the County court deals with slightly more severe cases such as re-offending, cases such as rape and other equally severe cases are held in Crown court, high profile cases are taken to the High courts. Then there is the court of Appeal, where all appeals are taken and at the top of the hierarchy is the House of Lords, this is where proposed new legislations are taken by parliament.

The legal proceedings start a long time before a case appears in court. It could be a matter of months or sometimes a couple of years before a case reaches court for a trial. Firstly the police have to produce a case file, consisting of statements and any evidential facts relating to the case. When the claimant decides to try and prosecute is when the legal proceedings start. The claimant and defendant each have to hire a solicitor to deal with the case. A solicitor's role is to give specialist legal advice to help their clients.

Solicitors are the main advisers on all matters of law to the public. A solicitors job is to provide clients which can be; members of the public, businesses, voluntary bodies, charities (etc), with skilled legal advice and representation. There is a personal communication between solicitor and client; they have many meetings and speak on a one to one basis about the case. The client gives the solicitor all the relevant information they can and the solicitor will advise the client on their status. For example, if the client is the defendant in a case, then the solicitor will advise on how to plead.

They will talk their clients through the court proceedings and what to expect from the hearing. The solicitor must act in good faith whenever dealing with a client; s/he is in a position of trust and must refrain from using "undue influence" upon the client. It is the solicitor's role to compile a case for court, examining the facts and statements gathered by the police, and researching other areas that could be used to argue the clients case. Looking at past cases and laws and how they were argued is one method used.

Also to decide, if any, which witnesses they acquire to testify, in aid to help their client's case in court. Perhaps one of the most important implications of hiring a solicitor is because it is the only way the public have access to a barrister, this is why people do not try and gather a case on their own. The solicitors hire the barristers for their client's cases. This puts a strong link between the two, however they do not work closely with each other, a solicitor can try to hire a different barrister for each of his cases, if s/he so wishes, they do not only work with one particular barrister.

The actual link between them is a lot looser than this; the solicitor usually only gives the case to the barrister the night before, or indeed morning of the day that the case appears in court. They do not converse about the case before this. The barrister's role in the legal proceedings of a court case is to argue the case they are given by the solicitor. Barristers represent the individuals/organizations in a court hearing or a tribunal. Another role of a barrister is to draft legal documents and give expert legal opinions to the solicitors clients.

A barrister is otherwise known as an "advocate" as this sums up the majority of their work; they have to appear in favour of their client's case, to support it and try to back it up with evidence in court. Advocacy and flexibility has to occur because a barrister can be called upon to prosecute in one case and defend in another. When analysing and examining the relationship between barristers and solicitors their roles are not that similar; a barrister goes into court and fights the case whereas a solicitor's job is mainly to compile the case paperwork and advise members of the public when needed.

I noticed many formalities followed by both barristers during the court case I observed, for example; their clothing (they wore long black robes and their wigs) and their language (they addressed each as "my learned friend", and they each addressed the judge as "my lord" or "lordship"). The prosecution and defence barristers each have slightly different roles during the case. For example it is the defence barrister's role, when requested by the court clerk to consent to putting the defendant under the charge of the twelve members of the jury, for the duration of the case.

The prosecution barrister's first role is to explain to the jury why they are in court and what it is they need to do to help them reach the right decision. For instance, they are told not to reach a decision until all evidence has been presented and all witnesses have been heard. Prosecution then begin presenting the particulars of the case to the jury and if necessary defining any terms used; for example defining what Parliament considers the definition of rape is. These particulars are called the 'overview' of the case, it is just an outline, not evidence, however the barrister speaks in very meticulous and ceremonial terms.

The prosecution is not only representing the claimant, but also representing the Crown, so sentences are started with "the Crown says", or "the Crown believes". The claimant is then brought to the stand, and it is in questioning her that the barristers differ in their roles. The prosecution runs through the details of the case, paying what seems like close attention to all areas. When asking questions the barrister seems rather patronising, in an aiding or helpful way, leaving answers ready for the claimant to voice.

However the defence barrister's role when cross-examining her is different. Because the defendant does not want to appear guilty, the barrister pays even more attention to detail than the prosecution. In fact the defence barrister spent a lot of time focusing on a matter of time related issues within the case. He was very tedious in the questions he asked and did not give up asking what seemed like the same question but worded differently each time. The defence barrister made the atmosphere within the court room very tense when questioning the claimant.