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Rock Street, San Francisco

Magistrates Court:

The Magistrates’ Court mainly deals with summary offences such as minor
criminal damage and being drunk and disorderly. The Magistrates Court may also decide
if another court hearing is needed, the court needs more information before
passing sentence or your case has been passed on to the Crown Court for trial
or sentencing. Lay magistrates do not have formal legal qualifications but have
some training and are given legal advice by clerks, who ensure that proper
procedures are followed in the court room. The usher will ensure all witnesses
have answered their summons, gather the witnesses and administer the oath or
affirmation. Magistrates hear all the evidence in a case and decide whether the
defendant is guilty or not guilty. The defence solicitor can challenge evidence
that has not been gathered fairly in accordance with the Police and Criminal
Evidence Act 1984 and can have this
evidence excluded if required.

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Alex was arrested under Section 9 of the 1968 Theft Act. Section 9 (1)(a)
which “requires proof that the entry took place with the intention of stealing,
inflicting GBH or committing unlawful damage” (Theft Act 1968). There were
signs of forced entry at the address; the kitchen window had been forced open
and the ground floor was ransacked, providing evidence of unlawful damage. If
the Magistrates’ Court find Alex guilty then they have limited powers in terms
of sentencing. If Alex is found guilty of domestic burglary, this would be his
third offence and he can only be imprisoned for a maximum of 1 year. If he is
found not guilty, he is innocent in the eyes of the law and will be free to go.
If the Magistrates Court feel this is too lenient then they can refer Alex to
the Crown Court.


Crown Court:

Alex’s case may be dealt with in the Crown Court instead as burglary is
triable either way. As this is Alex’s third offence this would make it more
likely magistrates will refer his case to the Crown Court. The judge must
ensure the trial is presented in a just and clear way, whilst upholding the
law. The judge will inform the jury they must consider the evidence and not the
law. The prosecution barrister will explain to the court what the defendant is
accused of and the prosecution must show the jury enough evidence to convince
them the defendant is guilty. The defence barrister will represent Alex and
their role is to identify flaws with the prosecution’s arguments. The defendant
will sit in the dock and will be present during the trial.


The first prosecution witness will be called to the stand and questioned
by the prosecution barrister, this is known as Examination in Chief. The defence will then ask the witness
questions and the prosecution will be given an opportunity to re-question the
witness. The defence barrister will then argue that the prosecution has not
raised sufficient evidence and if the judge agrees they will instruct the jury
to find them not guilty (this is known as acquittal). The judge will provide a
summary of evidence and will direct the jury on legal issues. If they are
unsure they must find the defendant not guilty and once decided, the foreperson
will announce the verdict.


If the defendant is found guilty, the jury will be thanked for their
service and the judge will move on to sentencing. It is possible that the judge
may suspend sentencing when considering other factors such as contentious
issues or the defendant’s background which may have an impact on the sentence
given. In Alex’s case, he has a young child and is experiencing drug issues. According
to Section 9 of the Theft Act 1968, Alex could be facing a maximum of 14 years
in police custody if he is found guilty by the jury for committing domestic
burglary. According to the Theft Act 1968 “Where sentencing an offender for a
qualifying third domestic burglary, the court must apply Section 111 of the
Powers of the Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 and impose a custodial
sentence of at least three years”. (Theft
Act 1968) The judge may give Alex a
shorter sentence and place Alex on a treatment programme whilst he serves his
time in prison which I feel may be the best solution as it is possible he is
committing burglaries to fund his drug addiction.

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