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English System of Law
Words and expressions
1. three separate systems of law
2. common features
3. sources of law
4. distinction between civil law and criminal law
5. written law (unwritten law)
6. the process of analogy
8. the final appellate tribunal
9. to deal with
10. juvenile courts
11. coroners’ courts
12. to be presided over
14. to try the majority of all criminal cases and some civil cases
First of all I must say, that there are three separate systems of law in the United Kingdom: the legal systems and law courts of: 1) England and Wales, 2) Scotland, 3) Northern Ireland.
There are some common features to all systems: the sources of law and the distinction between civil law and criminal law. Courts may be classified as criminal courts and civil courts.
The sources of law include: written law (statutes) and unwritten law (based on judicial precedent). We also call the common law as “case law” or “judge made” law. It means that when one judge has decided a point of law, any judge who has the similar set of facts must decide case in the same way as in the earlier judgement. In other words, the judge uses the process of analogy.
English system of law includes:
1) Magistrates’ courts (about 700). Magistrates’ Courts try the majority of all the less serious criminal cases and some civil cases. (Summary offences). Magistrates’ courts are presided over by lay magistrates (called justices of the peace). The courts consist of between 2 and 7 magistrates. It is the lower court or court of first instance.
2) Crown Court – consists of judge, 2 magistrates and jury. It deals with all serious criminal cases. (Indictable offences). It also hears appeals from magistrates’ courts. The accused has the right to trial by jury.
3) County Court – consists of judge and jury. It deals with civil cases, for example, divorce. (Minor claims up to 5,000 pounds).
4) The High Court hears all those civil cases that cannot be decided by County Courts. (More expensive and complicated cases).
5) Court of Appeal – hears both criminal and civil appeals. The appeal system is a necessary safeguard against mistakes and injustice.
6) The House of Lords – is the final appellate tribunal.
There is the Central Criminal Court in London (the Old Bailey).
Certain cases may be referred to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg or the European Court of Human Rights.
The legal system includes juvenile courts, which deal with offenders under 17 and coroners’ courts, which investigate violent, sudden or unnatural deaths. The age of criminal responsibility in England and Wales is ten. Britain has a serious problem with young offenders. The peak age for committing crime is 15.
The accused must normally appear first before a magistrates’ court. The large majority of all penalties in magistrates’ courts are fines.
An accused person has the right to employ a legal advisor.
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