Magistrates Court:The Magistrates’ Court mainly deals with summary offences such as minorcriminal damage and being drunk and disorderly. The Magistrates Court may also decideif another court hearing is needed, the court needs more information beforepassing sentence or your case has been passed on to the Crown Court for trialor sentencing. Lay magistrates do not have formal legal qualifications but havesome training and are given legal advice by clerks, who ensure that properprocedures are followed in the court room. The usher will ensure all witnesseshave answered their summons, gather the witnesses and administer the oath oraffirmation. Magistrates hear all the evidence in a case and decide whether thedefendant is guilty or not guilty. The defence solicitor can challenge evidencethat has not been gathered fairly in accordance with the Police and CriminalEvidence Act 1984 and can have thisevidence excluded if required. Alex was arrested under Section 9 of the 1968 Theft Act. Section 9 (1)(a)which “requires proof that the entry took place with the intention of stealing,inflicting GBH or committing unlawful damage” (Theft Act 1968).
There weresigns of forced entry at the address; the kitchen window had been forced openand the ground floor was ransacked, providing evidence of unlawful damage. Ifthe Magistrates’ Court find Alex guilty then they have limited powers in termsof sentencing. If Alex is found guilty of domestic burglary, this would be histhird offence and he can only be imprisoned for a maximum of 1 year. If he isfound not guilty, he is innocent in the eyes of the law and will be free to go.If the Magistrates Court feel this is too lenient then they can refer Alex tothe Crown Court. Crown Court:Alex’s case may be dealt with in the Crown Court instead as burglary istriable either way.
As this is Alex’s third offence this would make it morelikely magistrates will refer his case to the Crown Court. The judge mustensure the trial is presented in a just and clear way, whilst upholding thelaw. The judge will inform the jury they must consider the evidence and not thelaw. The prosecution barrister will explain to the court what the defendant isaccused of and the prosecution must show the jury enough evidence to convincethem the defendant is guilty. The defence barrister will represent Alex andtheir role is to identify flaws with the prosecution’s arguments. The defendantwill sit in the dock and will be present during the trial. The first prosecution witness will be called to the stand and questionedby the prosecution barrister, this is known as Examination in Chief.
The defence will then ask the witnessquestions and the prosecution will be given an opportunity to re-question thewitness. The defence barrister will then argue that the prosecution has notraised sufficient evidence and if the judge agrees they will instruct the juryto find them not guilty (this is known as acquittal). The judge will provide asummary of evidence and will direct the jury on legal issues. If they areunsure they must find the defendant not guilty and once decided, the forepersonwill announce the verdict. If the defendant is found guilty, the jury will be thanked for theirservice and the judge will move on to sentencing. It is possible that the judgemay suspend sentencing when considering other factors such as contentiousissues or the defendant’s background which may have an impact on the sentencegiven. In Alex’s case, he has a young child and is experiencing drug issues.
Accordingto Section 9 of the Theft Act 1968, Alex could be facing a maximum of 14 yearsin police custody if he is found guilty by the jury for committing domesticburglary. According to the Theft Act 1968 “Where sentencing an offender for aqualifying third domestic burglary, the court must apply Section 111 of thePowers of the Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 and impose a custodialsentence of at least three years”. (TheftAct 1968) The judge may give Alex ashorter sentence and place Alex on a treatment programme whilst he serves histime in prison which I feel may be the best solution as it is possible he iscommitting burglaries to fund his drug addiction.