Crown court or magistrates' court : a study of magistrates in action
thesisposted on 15.12.2014, 10:36 by Andrew. Herbert
This thesis provides a comprehensive analysis of the process by which decisions are made in magistrates' courts as to whether adult defendants charged with either way offences should be tried or sentenced in that court or at the Crown Court. An empirical study of three magistrates' courts in England suggests that a series of piecemeal initiatives geared explicitly towards a policy objective of restricting the number of cases reaching the Crown Court have only had a limited impact because they have failed to become part of the culture of the lay magistracy. It is argued that there is a lack of impetus coming from within magistrates' courts to complete more cases as court participants in general do not appear to acknowledge the validity of that objective. A secondary objective has been the enhancement of consistency between courts when determining which cases can be completed by magistrates in the public interest. The findings of this study suggest that the prime explanation for variations between courts lies in individual court culture and the effect that this has on the working practices of all court participants. It is suggested that most mode decisions are effectively not taken by magistrates, but are the outcome of prior negotiation between lawyers. But this negotiation is conducted within the context of a shared understanding as to which cases that particular court was likely to retain and which were likely to be committed to the Crown Court.