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The Crown Court

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Summary offenses dealt with at the Magistrate Court include less serious ones such as traffic offenses or failure to pay taxes and will generally include all cases, including triable offenses, where the defendant has opted for a summary trial. However, the Crown Court hears those cases involving indictable offenses which include the category of serious offenses such as rape or murder. In so far as triable offenses are concerned, all offenses start at the Magistrate Court but the Crown Court deals with all those offenses which the Magistrate Court feels is so serious that only the Crown Court can with it, or where the defendant has requested for trial by jury. Approximately ninety-six percent of criminal cases are dealt with summarily at a Magistrates Court.2 A comparison of workloads of the two courts in terms of trials which was conducted in 1999 showed that over four times as many trials took place in the magistrate’s courts as in the Crown Court.3 The qualifications required to sit as a judge in a Crown Court is that the person in question must be a fully qualified solicitor or barrister and must have spent a minimum time of at least seven years in practice, after qualifying. In the case of magistrates, no formal training is advocacy is required and magistrates are drawn from a wide variety of backgrounds. Lay Magistrates only undergo a short period of training and the exhaustive legal qualification and practice requirements required of judicial authorities in the crown courts are not expected of them. They are appointed by Lord Chancellor on the advice of the local advisory committees. However, the advantage with lay magistrates is that they are sensitive to local conditions prevailing in the area where they serve.While judicial officials receive a salary, magistrates are not paid and give their time on a voluntary basis to engage in the business of administration of justice.