The Court Structure in the UK


Court structure in the UK

The UK court system is made up of a number of courts that integrate together to form the UK's judicial system. All of the courts in the UK are managed and operated by Her Majesty's Courts Service (HMCS). The court structure in the UK is made up of these courts:

  • The County Court
  • The Magistrates' Court
  • The Crown Court
  • The Royal Courts of Justice
  • Youth Court
  • The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom

Most people do not have any first-hand experience of the court structure in the UK. Generally you will come into contact with just three types of court unless you commit a serious crime, or are in the armed forces.

The County Court

The county court is usually used for small claims when money is owed. A District or Circuit Judge will usually sit alone in this court. There are 216 County Courts in the current court structure. Civil matters are usually dealt with by this court. Generally speaking, the judges in the County Court have no formal legal training.

The Magistrates' Court

The magistrates' court hears criminal cases. Usually three magistrates will preside over the court. They are often called Justices of the Peace. The magistrates' court structure allows for members of the public to view any hearing from the public gallery. In front of the magistrate will sit the clerk of the court - as magistrates may not have any formal legal training, the clerk ensures that the law is followed as the case progresses. Magistrates do not wear a wig, but the clerk may wear a formal gown. Magistrates' courts don't usually sit with a jury.

The Crown Court

The crown court structure will be familiar to you as it is the crown court that is usually featured on television programs. The judge will sit on a raised platform 'the bench' above the rest of the court. You must address the judge as 'your honour'. When the judge enters the courtroom you must stand.

The clerk of the court will sit immediately in front of the judge. The clerk is the only member of the court that is allowed to pass messages to the judge. You will also see a person that will be recording the events in the courtroom. All cases in the crown court are recorded just in case they go to appeal. The courtroom will also usually have a stenographer that will make a written report of everything that is said in the court.

A court usher will pass documents around the courtroom. You will also see the barristers for the defence and prosecution. They will usually stand each time they address the judge, jury or the court in general, and behind the barristers will sit any supporting solicitors they have bought with them.

The jury sits in its own special area. This is usually near the defence barrister. Opposite the jury is the witness box. The defendant will sit in the dock usually with a police officer. Behind the defendant the public can sit, while members of the press have their own specific area. And outside the courtroom is a small room that the jury uses to consider its verdict.

If you would like to obtain legal advice about the court system, Caven can put you in touch with a local specialist solicitor free of charge.  So, if you have any questions or would like our help in finding local solicitors please call us on 08001 221 2299 or complete the web-form above.

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