What is a Crown Court?
Crown Court deals with serious criminal cases, such as murder, rape, or robbery.
It also deals with:
- Appeals against a magistrates’ court conviction or sentence
- Cases passed from a magistrates’ court for trial or sentencing
Crown Court is open to the public. It is more formal than magistrates’ court as the judge wears a gown and wig. However, if a child or a particularly vulnerable person is a witness or defendant, an application can be made for removal of wigs and gowns by judges and barristers. This is known formally as ‘special measures’. There are a few other types of special measures that could help the witness or defendant such as screens to shield the witness or a live video link from outside the courtroom.
Who does what in a Crown Court?
There is a judge and a jury in a Crown Court.
- Jury – a group of 12 members of the public who decide whether you’re guilty or not.
- Judge – if you are found guilty, the judge decides what sentence you are given. The sentence is the punishment.
Your solicitor (if you have one) can explain what happens in court. The judge and court staff will also give you instructions about the trial.
What does the jury do?
The jury will listen to the cases for both the prosecution and defence. They will weigh up the evidence presented, and then make a decision following guidance from the judge.
The jury are first told that they must reach a decision that all 12 people agree with. Their decision will be that they find you guilty, or not guilty.
If they cannot reach this decision, the judge might tell them that a majority verdict will do. This means that 10 of the 12 members of the jury must agree.
If they cannot reach this decision, a re-trial may be ordered.
What happens on the day of the trial?
- Firstly, the court official reads out the crime you’ve been charged with. You are then asked to say whether you’re pleading guilty, or not guilty.
If you plead guilty at this stage, there’s no trial and you are convicted and will be sentenced. You may get a less severe sentence than if you plead not guilty.
- The jury promise to listen carefully to the case so they can weigh up the evidence fairly, this means they are ‘sworn in’.
- The prosecution put their case against you.
If you plead not guilty, the prosecution lawyer will state why they think you committed the crime. They will present evidence, which can include calling witnesses. They must prove that you did something illegal, that you meant it, and that you did it on purpose or recklessly. They also must prove that you knew what you did was wrong, or that you knew you were doing it.
- You defend your case.
Your barrister (if you have one) will argue against what the prosecution says, and you give your own evidence. You must ‘swear’ to tell the truth, this means giving evidence ‘on oath’.
- The jury makes its decision.
At the end of the case, a member of the jury tells the court the jury’s decision. This will be whether they think you are guilty or not guilty.
What sentences can a Crown Court give?
A Crown Court can give a range of sentences, including:
- Community sentences
- Prison sentences – including life sentences
What if I disagree with my sentence?
If you disagree with the Crown Court’s sentence, you may be able to appeal.
This information has been based on https://www.gov.uk/courts/crown-court