The Crown Court

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This essay mainly focuses on giving an insight on what a crown court is, what usually happens and the type of cases that are taken here. The writer visited the court on 30 October there was a trial case on voyeurism whereby the plaintiff claimed that the defendant had been taking pictures of her while she was undressing without her consent. The aim of visiting the courtroom was to have an experience of what goes on in those courts and understand how a verdict is made.

The type of criminal offence is what dictates whether one is going to answer it in a crown court or in a different court. The more serious offences like rape, murder, manslaughter, and robbery can only be heard in a crown court. More so, if one pleads guilty in the first appearance based on the case and its seriousness it is possible that it could be sent to the crown court to proceed with the sentencing. Garton (2016, p. 7) explains that, ‘The design of the legal aid reductions and changes will take away routes to accessible early advice (including by the damage done to the advice sector, which in turn damages access to wider pro bono legal services) and leave intervention too late or denied altogether”. In case one pleads not guilty and the magistrates decide that, they cannot deal with the case it is therefore sent to the crown court where one is required to make an appearance thereafter.

The Case and Court Process

The crown court normally has a jury who decides whether one is guilty or not, a judge who decides the kind of sentence one gets and the solicitor (not a must to have) who explains what happens in court. The reason for providing written materials to the jurors is for purposes of understanding recollection of legal directions, as Ormerod & Wait (2018, p. 1-12) observe,

“The provision of written materials to jurors has two main benefits. First, and most importantly, there is now clear evidence that juror understanding and recollection of the legal directions during deliberations increases significantly if they are given written directions alongside the oral directions. Secondly, the provision of written materials is likely to reduce the scope for any meritorious appeal in the event of any conviction.”

The judge wears a traditional white wig and a gown. He /she ensures that all the witnesses are in a position to tell the court what happened and makes sure that you understand all the questions asked. The clerk normally sits in front of the court and is responsible of all the documents that are required during the trial. Additionally, there is the jury, which is made up of 12 normal people who have no idea what the trial is all about before they enter the courtroom. Their work is to give all the witnesses an ear and then make a decision on whether the defendant is guilty or innocent. In this courtroom is the defense lawyer too whose work is to help the defendant. He asks the witnesses questions and by presenting his point of view he tries to prove that the defendant is innocent. On the other hand, is the defendant this is the person accused of breaking the law in this case voyeurism. He sits at the dock and is not allowed to speak to anyone. Witnesses are also present and they sit in a specific place called the witness box. The usher wears a black robe and his work is to tell when it is your turn to enter the courtroom. The prosecutions lawyer, together with the police officers who investigated the case, tries to prove that the defendant has broken the law. Lord Denning stated as follows regarding the role of the prosecution lawyer:

“Although the chief officers of police are answerable to the law, they have a discretion with which the law will not interfere in many fields. For instance, it is for the Commissioner of Police, or the chief constable, as the case may be, to decide in any particular case whether enquiries should be pursued, or whether an arrest should be made, or a prosecution brought” (Kaufman, 1980, p. 9).

The role of the prosecution lawyer would be to presents evidence and ask witnesses questions about what they saw or heard. Lastly is the note taker who writes down everything that has been said by everyone.

The judge sits on a raised platform at the end of the courtroom and is usually addressed as ‘your honor’. The clerk sits in front of the judge’s bench facing the court. There then sits the barristers and behind them are the solicitors. The jury then sits in a specific area near the defending barrister and opposite them is the witness box (Andrew par 2.20). Below is a presentation of the crown court layout

At a trial, for instance, of voyeurism in the crown court the jury except in unusual circumstances decides upon the verdict of guilty or not guilty where the jury has tampered with the case. This seeks to prevent what Broadbridge (2009, p. 2) refers to as double jeopardy whereby,

“The plea of autrefois acquits, or a former acquittal, is grounded on this universal maxim of the common law of England, that no man is to be brought into jeopardy of his life or limb more than once for the same offence.”

In the court is a judge who deals with the legal matters and directing the jury on matters of law. However, the jury assesses the evidence and is responsible for delivering of the verdict. The judges in this case are often referred to as the judges of the law while the jury is referred to as the judges of the facts. After listening to the verdict both the judge and the members of the jury usually meet in a separate room outside the court where they discuss on the decision each one of them has made.

Voyeurism is the sexual interest or spying on people who are engaged in intimate behaviors for example undressing or other actions that are regarded as private. The voyeur does it without the attention of the subject who has no idea he/she is being observed. For the case to be laid one needs to be observing the complainant in a place where one is seen naked or engaging in a sexual activity. The accused can only be found guilty in case the prosecutor can prove that it was done for a sexual purpose, there is actual evidence of the observation, and the person was nude. However, when the crown court is deciding on the case in case it was filed for a sexual purpose they can rely on circumstantial evidence and if these factors suggest that the recording was for a sexual purpose then one can be convicted.

Voyeurism was added to the criminal code 2003. According to section 67, four types of activity prove a person is committing an offence. As Lipscombe (2018, p. 9) the proposed law “would therefore have introduced two new forms of voyeurism involving the operation of equipment or recording of an image under another person’s clothing with the intention of viewing their genitals or buttocks (with or without underwear), and without that person’s consent”. It happens when the person observes another person doing a private act without the consent of that person for sexual gratification. Secondly, if a person operates an equipment to enable them observe a person without the person’s consent, something that is against what (Rab, 2018, p. 8) refers to as residual freedom in his statement, “residual freedom. A citizen is free to do or say whatever he or she wishes unless the law (expressed primarily through Acts of Parliament) clearly states that such an action or statement is prohibited.” Thirdly, recording someone without their consent and lastly installing equipment for sexual purposes. Based on the decision of the crown court when one is found guilty, they can be given community sentences, prison sentences that include life sentence or serving some years in jail or fines. Additionally, in case one is found guilty of this offence the crown court has a choice of prosecuting by way of indictment or summarily. Based on section 67 indictment could lead to imprisonment of up to 5 years. On the other hand, if one is prosecuted summarily, they could end up in jail for 6 months.

 The judges who normally sit at these courts are the high court judges, circuit judges and the recorders. In this case, the barristers are the recorders and they normally act as part-time judges. They are responsible for handling the less serious cases. On the other hand, the main work of the barristers when not sitting as recorders is to act as advocates in the legal hearings and plead for the defendant in front of a judge. As Burton et al (2012, p. 19) notes in his study, “There is no official definition of false allegations of rape. From the case files and the qualitative research, a variety of definitions of false allegations of rape was found to be in operation amongst police and prosecutors false alegations.” This explains why the baristers must be in court to offer any interprtation whenever there is a misunderstanding of terms.

If the offender is not found guilty, they are usually acquitted and are free to go. In case they are found guilty or they plead guilty, they are convicted and the judge passes sentence. The offender and the victims are allowed to wear their normal but decent attire. The offender sits in a dock and a custody officer usually stand near them.

Conclusion

Crown courts have played a crucial role in deciding cases on serious crimes such as sexual violence, murder, and robbery within societies. A certain process guides the court by outlining the way the judge, plaintiff, accused, members of the jury, and other involved parties should conduct themselves concerning the law and what is required of them during the court session. Voyeurism is a sexual offence whose case is heard in a crown court; this paper has successfully discussed how a court process on voyeurism should be conducted leading to either arrest of the accused or their freedom.

With the increase in technology, the immorality rates have gone up and so has voyeurism. It is therefore important that those found guilty of these offences be charged accordingly to act as a lesson to those people who are doing it but have not yet been caught. This way, the levels of immorality will go down especially among the younger people. On the other hand, the judicial systems need to look at this case as huge ones since they are the stepping-stones of more serious issues like those that they eventually lead to rape cases.

                         

References

Broadbridge, S 2009, “Double Jeopardy,” House of Commons, 1082(16), pp. 1-24. UK Government (Online). Available at: researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/SN01082/SN01082.pdf

Burton et al 2012, “Understanding the progression of serious cases through the Criminal Justice System Evidence drawn from a selection of casefiles”, Ministry of Justice, 11/12 (6), pp. 1-75. UK Government (Online). Available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/217471/understanding-progression-serious-cases.pdf

Garton, G 2016, “Litigants in person: the rise of the self-represented litigant in civil and family cases”, House of Commons Library, 07113 (14), pp. 1-14. UK Government (Online). Available at: researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/SN07113/SN07113.pdf

Kaufman, IR 1980. “Criminal Procedure in England and the United States: Comparisons in Initiating Prosecutions”, Fordham Law Review, 49 (1), pp. 1-15. Law Review (Online). Available at: https://ir.lawnet.fordham.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=2457&context=flr

Lipscombe, S 2018. “Voyeurism (Offences) (No. 2) Bill 2017-19”, House of Commons Library, Vol. 8356, no. 17, pp. 1-20. UK. Government

(Online). Available at: researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/CBP-8356/CBP-8356.pdf

Ormerod, M & Wait, T 2018, “The Crown Court Compendium”, Judicial College, 1082 (11), pp. 1-24. Judiciary (Online). Available at:  https://www.judiciary.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/crown-court-compendium-pt1-jury-and-trial-management-and-summing-up-june-2018-1.pdf

Rab, S 2018, “Legal systems in UK (England and Wales): overview”, Thomas Reuters, 1 (3), pp. 1-10. Reuters (Online). Available at: https://uk.practicallaw.thomsonreuters.com/56362498?transitionType=Default&contextData=(sc.Default)&firstPage=true&comp=pluk&bhcp=1

Andrews, Neil. The Modern Civil Process: Judicial and Alternative Forms of Dispute Resolution in England. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2008. Print.

 

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December 12, 2023
Category:

Law Life

Subcategory:

Experience

Subject area:

Court

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8

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2041

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