Understand the hierarchy of the criminal court

The Criminal Justice System is one of the most important tools available to society for the control of antisocial behaviour. There are five main criminal courts in the Criminal Justice System: the Magistrate Court, Crown Court, High Court, Court of Appeal and the House of Lords (see diagram of the hierarchy of criminal court in Appendix 2). Criminal cases being heard in either the Crown Court or the Magistrates' Court. In the Crown Court a judge and 12 jurors hear the case. The jurors decide the facts and verdict and the judge decides the sentence.

In the Magistrates' Court the magistrates decide the facts, verdict and point of law. The form of trial is an adversarial one, with prosecution and defence presenting their cases and interrogating each other's witnesses, while the role of the judge or magistrates is to oversee the trial and make sure that the legal rules are followed correctly. Lay magistrates are employed to look over the Magistrates' Court cases. They are unpaid and do not have any legal qualification. There are panel of three lay magistrates in every case and one of them has to be a women.

Clerk (a legally qualified person) assists the lay magistrates. The clerk informs them about the law. There is no Jury in Magistrates' Court. In some cities there tends to be a District Judge sitting in the case, rather than three lay magistrates. Crimes such as theft, possession of dangerous dogs and criminal damage are heard in the Magistrates' Court, as they are summary offences. This means that they are less serious than indictable offences, which tend to include murder, rape and to some extend robbery. The Magistrates' Court also acts as a Youth Court.

The court consist three magistrates who are drawn from a special panel of person who need no longer be under 65 years of age and it is usual for one or more female magistrates to be present. The Youth Court is separate from the ordinary adult court and is less formal. The parents or guardian of any child under 16 are usually required to be present at court. In contrast with the Magistrates' Court and Crown Court, proceeding are usually private and there are strict controls on press reporting to shield the youngsters who appear before the court from unnecessary "branding" as criminals.

Discuss the effectiveness of the criminal courts within the criminal justice system and include examples of recent legislation. The Government commissioned a full-scale review of the criminal courts conducted by Sir Robin Auld (a senior Appeal court judge), which was published in October 2001. The Review proposes that there should be a move away from all forms of pre-trial hearings, instead, standard timetables would be issued and the parties would be required to cooperate with each other in order to comply with these timetables.

To insure an effective proposed reform, the government asked people to comment on this recommendation. By doing this government could found out peoples views on the report and could move on from this. Following the comments received from the public was the publication on the White Paper, which put forward the government's idea as to what needs to be done in order to improve the criminal justice system. The purpose of this White Paper was to send the clearest possible signal to those committing offences that the criminal justice system is untied in ensuring their detection, convicting and punishment.

So basically, Sir Robin Auld's main concern was to remove the unnecessary complexities in the system that were slowing it down and making it inefficient. The central plank of his proposal was the creation of a middle-ranking court, called a District Division where cases would be heard by a professional judge and two lay magistrates. The Government is now considering his proposal and legislation introducing some, but not all, of his recommendation is expected in 2002 or 2003, depending on parliamentary time.

There has been, therefore, much debate over the recent legislation such as racism and police corruption: Britain is a multicultural country and successful policing requires that all members of British society must have confidence in the police force. Following the case of Stephen Lawence (a black teenager stabbed by racist youth- who weren't brought to justice), a judicial injury (headed by Sir William Macpherson- former high court judge) was set up by the government in 1997. Its report was published in February 1999.

It discovered the metropolitan police suffered from institutional racism (a failure for an organisation to provide a professional service to people because of their colour etc. ). This was reflected in the presumption (by the first senior officer) that it was because of a fight, the thoughtless approach of some officers to the parents of Stephen, the side-lining of Stephen's friend, the refusal of accepting it was a murder case by some officers and also the offensive language used by police officers during the inquiry. Racism training seemed to be non-existent.

Another debate is a police corruption, which basically looks at the idea of criminals being able to somehow (usually through money) corrupt a police officer. Sir Paul Condon has made anti-corruption a touchstone of his term as commissioner of the metropolitan police. He estimated that there was up to 250 corrupt officers in his force. Special squads need to be set up, Like new Scotland Yard, who concentrate on corrupt police officers too can be convicted of corruption related offences or suspended for alleged corruption or similar matters.