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Uk Legal System

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Supreme Court
The Supreme Court sits as a UK court when taking on civil case as it listens to 70 cases a year, mostly civil, which include some cases from Northern Ireland and Scotland. The majority of the civil cases are linked with tax law. On rare occasions a case can leap-frog from high court to Supreme Court but if not then the majority of the appeals come from the court of appeal or Scottish Court of Session. Leave to appeal to the Supreme Court must be granted by the lower court; this is usually court of appeal or by two justices. Only cases that raise a point of law of general public will be heard here. The Supreme Court will also hear criminal cases as well as civil.

Court Of Appeal
Civil Division
The civil division of the court of appeal mainly hears appeals that came from the high court but on occasion it will hear cases from multi-track actions that have come from county court. The court will occasionally get appeals about the amount of damages awarded e.g. libel cases. Most appeals will concern a question in law. Leave to appeal must be agreed to by the lower court or by the Court of Appeal itself. The court of appeal can uphold or reverse the lower court’s decision.
Criminal Division
This division is presided over by Lord Woolf, he is known as the Lord Chief Justice. The panel is made up of three judges who will hear the appeals, most of the time it is two senior High Court judges from the Queen’s Bench division and a Lord Justice of Appeal. Unless the appeal is important then all the judges will be Lord Justices. Appeals to the court must be granted by the crown court when the defendant is against their conviction or sentence. The Court of Appeal may reduce or confirm the sentence imposed at trial. They may lay down or vary the tariff sentence. The principle reasons for appealing against a conviction are: the conviction given is unsafe or unsatisfactory; new evidence has come to light that was not available during the original trail: that there has been material irregularity during the course of the trail. The court can uphold, overturn, substitute a lower level conviction or order a retrial.

High Court
The High Court is made up of three divisions: The Queen’s Bench, Family and Chancery. The Queen’s Bench is the most important and the busiest of the divisions and has over 70 high court judges assigned to it. The Queen’s Bench division mainly hears tort and contract cases. It also hears libel cases and in these cases a jury may be asked to sit in during the trial, all other cases are heard by one judge. Within the Queen’s Bench division is the Commercial Court and the Admiralty Court. The Chancery division handles probate matters, trusts, mortgages, bankruptcies, company and partnership cases, and taxation matters. There are 17 High Court Judges assigned to the chancery division. There is only one judge sitting on each case. The Family division mainly deals with divorce, ward ship, adoption and uncontested probate matters. There are 17 High Court judges sitting in this division. There is no financial limit to the high court’s jurisdiction.

High Court
The High Court is made up of three divisions: The Queen’s Bench, Family and Chancery. The Queen’s Bench is the most important and the busiest of the divisions and has over 70 high court judges assigned to it. The Queen’s Bench division mainly hears tort and contract cases. It also hears libel cases and in these cases a jury may be asked to sit in during the trial, all other cases are heard by one judge. Within the Queen’s Bench division is the Commercial Court and the Admiralty Court. The Chancery division handles probate matters, trusts, mortgages, bankruptcies, company and partnership cases, and taxation matters. There are 17 High Court Judges assigned to the chancery division. There is only one judge sitting on each case. The Family division mainly deals with divorce, ward ship, adoption and uncontested probate matters. There are 17 High Court judges sitting in this division. There is no financial limit to the high court’s jurisdiction.

Crown Court
The Crown Court hears cases after they been appealed from the magistrates court. The main role of the crown court is to hear indictable offences e.g. murder, rape and theft. They also hear serious either way cases, where the defendant has chosen to be tried on indictment with a judge and a jury or where the jurisdiction has been declined by the magistrates. Different judges sit on the cases depending on the seriousness of the offence. Class 1 offences such as murder are tried by a High Court judge from the Queen’s Bench division. These judges also hear most of the class 2 offences e.g. rape, theft and attempted murder, these offences can result in a life sentence. Less serious cases are tried by circuit judges or recorders. All cases heard in the crown court the decision of the defendant’s guilt or not guilty status in decided by the jury.
Crown Court
The Crown Court hears cases after they been appealed from the magistrates court. The main role of the crown court is to hear indictable offences e.g. murder, rape and theft. They also hear serious either way cases, where the defendant has chosen to be tried on indictment with a judge and a jury or where the jurisdiction has been declined by the magistrates. Different judges sit on the cases depending on the seriousness of the offence. Class 1 offences such as murder are tried by a High Court judge from the Queen’s Bench division. These judges also hear most of the class 2 offences e.g. rape, theft and attempted murder, these offences can result in a life sentence. Less serious cases are tried by circuit judges or recorders. All cases heard in the crown court the decision of the defendant’s guilt or not guilty status in decided by the jury.

Magistrates Court
The magistrates court hears over a million cases every year. All summary offences and most of the either way offences are tried by the magistrates court. Summary offences are not very serious offences and either way offences if there not so serious then they are tried in the magistrates court. The Youth Court is in the magistrates and they have the jurisdiction to try all cases against those aged between 10 and 17. The Youth Court is similar but less formal than the adult courts. Three magistrates and a legal advisor are present during the case. The magistrates involved with the youth court must receive extra training and there must be a mixed gender bench. Parents or a guardian must be present, and the youth may have a legal representative or social worker. The hearing is held in private and the defendants name is not exposed to the public unless necessary.
Magistrates Court
The magistrates court hears over a million cases every year. All summary offences and most of the either way offences are tried by the magistrates court. Summary offences are not very serious offences and either way offences if there not so serious then they are tried in the magistrates court. The Youth Court is in the magistrates and they have the jurisdiction to try all cases against those aged between 10 and 17. The Youth Court is similar but less formal than the adult courts. Three magistrates and a legal advisor are present during the case. The magistrates involved with the youth court must receive extra training and there must be a mixed gender bench. Parents or a guardian must be present, and the youth may have a legal representative or social worker. The hearing is held in private and the defendants name is not exposed to the public unless necessary.
County Court
There are roughly 300 county courts and they are all governed by the County Courts Act 1984. They only hear civil cases and they are tried either by a circuit judge, a recorder or a district judge. It hears contract and tort cases that have a value of £50,000 or less. The county Court has jurisdiction for probate and land law cases, principally repossession orders and has equitable jurisdiction with bankruptcies and tax cases. The small claims court is within the county court and can hear claims up to £5000 in value and £1000 in personal injury claims. A district just hears this less formal procedure and there is not usually any legal aid. Costs are not awarded to the successful party. Appeals made are heard by a circuit judge in small claims cases, a single high court judge in fast track cases or a court of appeal in multi-track cases. In all cases, leave to appeal must be granted.

County Court
There are roughly 300 county courts and they are all governed by the County Courts Act 1984. They only hear civil cases and they are tried either by a circuit judge, a recorder or a district judge. It hears contract and tort cases that have a value of £50,000 or less. The county Court has jurisdiction for probate and land law cases, principally repossession orders and has equitable jurisdiction with bankruptcies and tax cases. The small claims court is within the county court and can hear claims up to £5000 in value and £1000 in personal injury claims. A district just hears this less formal procedure and there is not usually any legal aid. Costs are not awarded to the successful party. Appeals made are heard by a circuit judge in small claims cases, a single high court judge in fast track cases or a court of appeal in multi-track cases. In all cases, leave to appeal must be granted.

Lay people are members of the public who have no legal qualifications. The use of lay people in our courts and them making decisions in our courts dates back hundreds years. One example of lay people in the court room would be the jury. There are 12 people sat in the jury in the court room. Under the act of the juries made in 1974 to qualify you have to be on the electoral roll, which is kept on a computer at the control jury summary (CJS). The people are selected randomly off the list. You have to be aged between 18 and 70 and you must have also been a resident here for at least five years. The CJS selects the people out random who is to take part in the jury service. Those selected are sent a jury summons in the post with the time, date and place they are supposed to go. On the day there is a large group that assemble in the juror’s assembly area that is separated into groups of 15. Each group of 15 is assigned a court room to report to. In the court room 12 are selected to sit on the jury randomly by picking names out of a shuffled pile of cards. The other three are them in case there is a problem with one of the selected jury members. The 12 that will be sitting in the case have to make an oath or affirm. During the case the jury is not allowed access to the media so their views and opinions aren’t changed. Under the criminal justice act of 2009 you can be disqualified from jury service if you fall into one of three categories. The fist is if you are on bail then you cannot sit in on the case as part of the jury. You are disqualified for 10 years if you have been convicted of a crime and you are disqualified for life if you have been sentenced to imprisonment for 5 years or more. Jury service is compulsory, if you fail to turn up you can face up to a £1000 fine or imprisonment. In certain cases, you may be excused or differed. If you are excused, this means you are not required to participate in jury service within the next 12 months. If you are differed, then you will have to complete your jury service another time usually within the next 12 months. After a jury has heard both sides of a case they will go into a private room and come to a verdict in whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty. The vote has to be 12-0, 11-1 or 10,2. After the verdict is given by the jury then they will be asked to leave and then the judge will give out the sentence that fits. Juries only sit in the county court, the crown court and in the high court, but only on specific cases e.g. fraud. Another example of lay people in the court room is Lay Magistrates. Lay Magistrates are volunteers from the public with no legal qualifications and they act as judges in the magistrate court. The lay magistrate judge is accompanied by two wingers; they are also members of the public who have volunteered. Lay Magistrates work 26 ½ days a year (13 full days). To apply to be a lay magistrate you have to be aged between 18 and 65 and complete 1 year on training. They are expected to retire at the age of 70. Advertising for lay magistrates is usually in the papers or on the radio so people are aware and can apply. After the application process if they are deemed qualified enough with the information shown on their resume then they are invited in to the first stage of interviews. If the candidate makes it past the first stage of interviews then they will partake in visits to prisons, probation centres and young offenders institute. Then they will be invited back for the second stage of the interviews where they will par take in role plays bases on citations they may face in the court room. If the Local Advisory Committee (LAC) deem they are right for the job, then they will recommend you to the Lord Chancellor who will then appoint you as a lay magistrate. After a year of training is complete then you will be allowed in the court room. During the training you will get an induction and basic core training on how to be a lay magistrate and receive a mentor. You will receive extensive training so they are sure the person will be a competent magistrate. They will visit prisons, probation centres and young offenders institute and participate in reading and distance learning exercises whilst keeping a detailed and developed personal log. At the end of the year you will have a consolidation on everything so they can be sure the applicant can be an adequate lay magistrate. After a year of being a lay magistrate they will receive an appraisal which will help them improve. The reasons for using lay people in because they are cheaper that judges, it gives the public confidence and it is seen as fairer for both sides in the court. However, it can be bias, opinions may be changed by the media and they don’t have any legal knowledge.
They’re several different kind of judges, one kind is a district judge. District judges can appear in the Magistrates court, County court. This means they can hear criminal and civil cases. They are qualified and paid judges who have spent at least 7 years practicing as a barrister or a solicitor. They are appointed to courts in cities or within the county, due to their experience and knowledge of the law they are expected to have a high case load. Unless the Lord Chancellor grants am extension they retire at the age of 70. To become a recorder, you have a 10-year crown or county qualification, this is the same for a circuit judge. Both of these professionals can appear in a county court or a crown court, which means they can hear civil and criminal case. To become a high court judge and be able sit in the high court of the crown court you must have a 10-year Supreme Court qualification. High court judges can hear civil and criminal cases. Lord justice of the peace appear in the court of appeal and they must have a Supreme Court qualification and experience as a high court judge, these hear appeals from the lower courts. All of these positions are appointed by the queen who acts upon the recommendations given by the PM who is advised by the Lord Chancellor. The Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) has had the responsibility of selection and appointment on the judiciary in England and Wales since the April of 2006. Lord Appeal in ordinary (Law Lord) has to have Supreme Court qualifications and high court judge experience. These are appointed by the Queen who is taking on the advice of the PM who has received it from the Lord Chancellor. Applicants require to provide 3 to 6 names of people who have had recent and substantial knowledge of their previous work experience. Then they will move on to interviews which generally last 45 minutes and include a structured question and answer session. After this a series of final checks are performed on the candidates and those who pass them will get recommended for the job.
Solicitors do not need to have a law degree or a degree at all. If they don’t have a degree in law then they would need to achieve the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL), it is a yearlong full time course. Following this they would have to participate in the Legal Practice Course (LPC) then complete a two yearlong training contract with a firm of solicitors. After this they are entered onto rolls of the Law Society and are able to practise as a solicitor. After qualifying, solicitors have to continue their professional development by participating different professional course. It is possible to become a solicitor without a degree by qualifying at fellow of the Institute of Legal Executives (ILEX). The work of a solicitor involves giving clients advice and carrying out administrative tasks, including conveyancing or probate matters. Conveyancing involves dealing with legal requirements of buying a selling properties and probate matters includes drafting wills and acting as executors of the estate of a deceased. Advising clients on family law, setting up companies and drawing different kinds of contracts is also what solicitors do. Solicitors can represent clients in the magistrate’s court, crown court, county court and high court. Solicitors do more advocacy work than barristers since 97% of criminal cases tried in the magistrates, where both the prosecuting and the defending lawyer are solicitors. When a barrister is present on a case the solicitor still has an important role as they are handling various procedural aspects of the case such as gathering evidence and discovering documents. Solicitors mostly work in partnerships. In recent years’ firms have merged together in to larger partnerships, which increases specialisation. In the English Legal System there is currently over 15,000 barristers practicing. To continue their professional training barristers must become a member of one of the four inns; Lincoln’s Inn, Grey’s Inn, Inner Temple and Middle Temple. They must complete a Bar Vocational Course (BVC) which comprises the skills of advocacy and drafting pleadings and negotiations. They must also dine at the Inn 12 times before being called to the bar. After this they must gain a 1-year pupillage at a set of chambers with an experienced barrister, who will be the pupil master. Half way through the year, barristers can appear in court by themselves on minor cases. At the end of the pupillage they must acquire a tenancy at a set of chambers. It can be very hard to find a pupillage and a tenancy as the demand is high. A barrister is referral profession. This means that the public can’t go directly to them to get help they have to seek advice from a solicitor first, who will refer them to barrister if required. Barristers can be directly engaged by certain professions for example accountants. Barristers a ‘cab-rank’ rule which requires them to take on any case referred to them unless it isn’t within their expertise, they’ve not agreed to an appropriate fee or they don’t have time to accept the case. Then can’t refuse a case based on their beliefs or views they have to take it on. Most of the work barristers do involves advocacy in any court as they have full rights of an audience in all English courts. Barristers provide council and opinions to solicitors on behalf of clients who require a specialised second opinion. Barristers are self-employed and work from asset of chambers that houses other barristers, who share administrative and accommodation expenses. A clerk in employed and their job is to book cases and negotiate fees.

In the civil court system lawyers practice in the county court and the high court when doing civil cases. In the county court is also the small’s claims court where personal injuries worth up to £1,000 can be heard. A circuit judge, a recorder or a district judge can hear cases in the county court. The county court can hear family cases such as divorce and claims worth up to £5,000. In cases that are worth more they can appeal to the high court if granted leave to appeal. All the judges that sit in the high court are high court judges. The high court deals with three separate divisions; the Queen’s Bench, Family and Chancery. The Queen’s Bench usually hears tort and contract law. There is no jury in the high court except for cases that are libel or fraud related. The Family division will deal with things like divorce, adoption and ward ship. The Chancery division deals with trusts, mortgages, bankruptcies, company and partnership cases, taxation matters and probate matters (drafting wills, executer of the estate after their death). Lawyers can practice in any three of these divisions as well as the county court on the civil side of the English Legal System. Barristers can appear in any court room within the English Legal System, this means the county court, the high court, the court of appeal (civil division) and Supreme Court for civil cases. Barristers can appear in the supreme court which is where the more serious case are dealt with and most civil cases that are dealt with in the supreme court are linked or involved with tax law. In the Supreme Court a Justices of the Supreme Court will try these cases. Only cases that raise a point of law that they think would be of importance to the general public will be heard at the Supreme Court. At the court of appeal one Lord Justices of Appeal, the Lord Chief Justice or the President of the Queen's Bench Division will sit in a bench of three with two High Court Judges, to hear appeals. At the court of appeal, they can reduce or reverse and sentence or conviction.
In the magistrate’s court the lay magistrate judge will sit on a bench and will have to wingers who are also lay people and are there to come up with a decision with the chairperson. Sometime a district judge will sit and hear cases in the magistrate’s court as he is a professional and trained him or she will not have the need for lay wingers. There are many advantages and disadvantages to having lay people in the court room. An advantage is that having a jury means that they will have a fresh mind and are open so they have no prior knowledge of the case which means that they can give a fairer verdict when deciding if the defendant is guilty or not just based on what is shown in the court room. A disadvantage is that the jury may have no knowledge of the law so they are unexperienced and may not understand everything that is going on in the court room and that may have an effect on the way they vote on whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty. I think that having lay people in the court room is a good thing because it will give the public more confidence in society and that we are safe. It will also give them a better idea of the laws that they are supposed to follow and if they see others getting punished or put under pressure in the court room then they may think twice about committing a crime. However, the jury system can be as equally as unfair as it is fair as people may judge the defendant purely based on what they look like. If they don’t like the way, they look they may have closed their mind to the possibility of the defendant being innocent. Also, the jury may be bought or bribed to vote one way on a case or even threatened to do so. An example of jury tampering would be the case of the Heathrow robbery trial. John Twomey was 62, he and three other defendants faced trial over a bungled robbery at Heathrow airport in 2004. They had tried to steal more than £10m from a warehouse but had misread a flight document and there was only £1.75m at the time, most of which has not been recovered. The case was heard at the high court in London and it was expected to last three months. At the 3rd trial the judge stopped the hearing almost halfway through after getting information from the prosecution, which the judge said pointed to a "serious attempt at jury tampering". The prosecution applied afterwards for a trial without a jury. But in the high court, Mr. Justice Calvert-Smith decided to provide protection measures for the jury so they were able to run a fourth trial. The court of appeal overruled his decision last year. The four men were tried and convicted by Mr. Justice Treacy after the first three trials failed, the last two due to allegations that the jurors had been "compromised". This shows that even with protection from the court the jury can still be tampered with which means there is always a chance someone isn’t getting a fair trial. A case where it can be debatable if the jury works is the Clive Ponting case in 1985. Ponting leaked documents therefore going against the Official Secrets Act but he did so in the public’s interest. For this reason the jury gave him a verdict of not guilty even though he admitted to the offence. People started to question the point in having a jury if they were going to decide a person is not guilty, even when they admit to the crime, because they feel it is in their best interests. The jury is supposed to have an unbiased opinion on the case they are hearing. Therefore they should have not taken their personal interests into account and base their verdict on the facts and evidence presented in the courtroom at the time.

http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2010/jan/10/heathrow-robbery-trial-jury-twomey http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2010/mar/31/heathrow-robbery-appeal-trial-jury http://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/uk.legal/qBhzc16vhz4…...

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Australian Legal System in Context

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Is the Uk a Two Party System

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Aspects of the Legal System

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Jury System in the Uk

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