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Magistrates Court

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BURDEN AND STANDARD OF PROOF

In most criminal trials the burden of proof and the Defendant’s guilt is upon the Prosecution. In other words the Prosecution has to prove that the Defendant is guilty and he does not have to prove his innocence.

The Prosecution can only succeed in proving a Defendant’s guilt by making the Jurors sure of it. Nothing less than that will do and if the Jury/Magistrates are not sure that a Defendant is guilty then they must return a verdict of not guilty.

BASIC PROCEDURE – MAGISTRATES COURT TRIAL

The following procedure is the basic guide.

  • The Crown Prosecution Service will open the case
  • The Crown Prosecution Service will call each witness who will be asked questions, then cross examined by the Defence and then re-examined by the Prosecutor and i questions can be asked by the Magistrate(s).
  • The Prosecution can read only any agreed evidence where no witnesses are controversial and generally the evidence is not contested.
  • Once the Prosecutor has closed the case the Defence, if they deem it appropriate, may make a submission that there is no case to answer.
  • The Defence will then call their witnesses who will be asked questions, cross examined by the Prosecutor and then re-examined by the Defence advocate and be asked questions of each witness (including the Defendant if he decides to give evidence) by the Magistrates.
  • Once the Defence conclude the case, the Defence Advocate can address the Magistrates.
  • The Magistrates retire and thereafter deliver a verdict.
  • If the Defendant is acquitted the allegation against him will be dismissed. If he is convicted then the Magistrates will decide the issue of sentence.

SENTENCING

If a Defendant pleads guilty or is found guilty then it falls upon the Magistrates or a Judge to sentence him/her. The type of sentence the accused receives will depend on whether they are a youth or an adult and furthermore will depend on various factors such as their previous convictions and the nature and seriousness of the offence.

Sentences can vary from discharges, fines, community orders, suspended sentencing and imprisonment.