Court Proceedings Essay

3296 words - 13 pages

Court Proceedings Court proceedings are the most public manifestation of the criminal
justice process, the arena in which justice is very literally "seen to
be done". This is especially true of the trial, generally assumed to
be the stage in the process where the defendant has his or her day in
court and the opportunity to assert innocence. The trial is a vial
part of the adversarial system, and as we have seen the right to trial
by one's peers, represented by the jury system, and as we have seen
the right to trial by one's peers, represented by the jury system, is
seen as a fundamental protection for the defendant against the power
of the state.

A Crown court trial has some of the appearance of a theatrical
performance with costumes, ceremony, dramatic settings and seating for
audience. These dramatic qualities are also evident in the
cross-examination of witness to see who will play their part well, and
the speeches of counsel to win the sympathy of the jury. They play out
their roles in line with the adversarial principles of the trial. The
prosecution and the defence counsel present their arguments before a
judge whose role is to ensure a fair trial, and the jury, who must
decide on the guilt, or not, of the defendant. The real life drama of
the trial lies in its public examination of and formal adjudication
upon matters of human weakness and wickedness.

At a more prosaic level, the trial seeks to establish the guilt, or
otherwise, of the accused. Whether a trial takes place in the
magistrates' court or the Crown court, the key issues are the same and
relate to the principle of the presumption of innocence and the
application of the adversarial approach to justice.

In the Crown court, the body charged with determining guilt or not is
the jury. Defended by some as the bastion of democracy, castigated by
others as unwieldy anachronism that allows miscarriages of justice to
take place, the jury has been part of the criminal justice system in
one form or another since the twelfth century. Juries are currently
composed of 12 men and women drawn from the register of electors for
the area in which the trial is to take place. The qualification for
jury service is now laid down in the Juries Act 1974. To be eligible
for jury service a person must be:

- between 18 and 70

- ordinarily resident in the UK for at least 5 years since the age of

- not ineligible

- not disqualified

Members of the judiciary and legal profession, the

clergy and the mentally disordered are ineligible. Disqualified
categories of persons include anyone who has received a custodial
sentence of more than 5 years or a life sentence, those who have been
sentenced to probation within the last 5...

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