The Court System

In general terms the court at which a case is tried depends on the seriousness of the offence. The majority of cases are heard in the Magistrate’s Court. If it’s an indictable-only offence such as murder or rape, the involvement of the Magistrate’s Court is minor and the case is referred to the Crown Court.

County Court

The County Court, often referred to as the ‘Small Claims Court’ deals with civil matters, such as:

Crown Court

The Crown Court deals with more serious criminal cases such as murder, rape or robbery, some of which are on appeal or referred from Magistrates’ courts. Trials are heard by a Judge and a 12 person jury. Members of the public are selected for jury service or may have to go to court as witnesses.

Magistrate’s courts

95% of cases are completed at Magistrate’s court, as well as many civil cases e.g. family matters, liquor licensing and betting and gaming. Cases are usually heard by a panel of three magistrates (Justices of the Peace) supported by a Court Clerk.

Magistrates cannot normally order sentences of imprisonment that exceed 6 months (or 12 months for consecutive sentences), or fines exceeding £5000. In cases triable either by the magistrates’ court or the Crown Court the offender may be committed by the magistrates to the Crown Court for sentencing if a more severe sentence is thought necessary.

Youth Court

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is the Government department responsible for prosecuting criminal cases investigated by the police in England and Wales. It is an independent body that works closely with the police.

As the principal prosecuting authority in England and Wales, the CPS is responsible for:

The role of the Service is to prosecute cases firmly, fairly and effectively when there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction and when it is in the public interest to do so.

The Service plays a central role in bringing to justice perpetrators of anti-social behaviour by:

For further information about the Crown Prosecution Service visit

Probation Services

The National Probation Service aims to:

The service supervises people who have been sentenced following breaches of criminal behaviour orders, and people with criminal behaviour orders who are being supervised for other matters.

It also finds unpaid, supervised work within local communities for those sentenced to undertake community service, which can help with graffiti removal and community clean-ups.

Youth Offending Teams

Young people are more likely to be victims of anti-social behaviour (ASB) than perpetrators of it, but when they are responsible for ASB, youth offending teams play a critical role in tackling it.

All members of Youth Offending Teams have expertise in areas relevant to the care and rehabilitation of young offenders. These may include areas such as the Police Service, Probation Service, Social Services, the Health Service, Education and Psychology.  They are overseen by the Youth Justice Board.

Youth offending teams will:

The Youth Justice Board website – – includes comprehensive information about youth offending teams and the youth justice system in England and Wales.