Court System and Legal Professionals
The Courts of England and Wales, supported administratively by Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service, are the civil and criminal courts responsible for the administration of justice in England and Wales.
The United Kingdom does not have a single unified legal system—England and Wales has one system, Scotland another, and Northern Ireland a third. There are exceptions to this rule; for example in immigration law, the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal's jurisdiction covers the whole of the United Kingdom, while in employment law there is a single system of employment tribunals for England, Wales, and Scotland but not Northern Ireland. Additionally, the Military Court Service has jurisdiction over all members of the armed forces of the United Kingdom in relation to offences against military law.
The Court of Appeal, the High Court, the Crown Court, the County Court, and the magistrates' courts are administered by Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service, an executive agency of the Ministry of Justice.
For further clarification we RECOMMEND reading the following table describing the main courts of England and Wales. The reading of the same is not mandatory for the purposes of understanding the lesson:
|Supreme Court of the United Kingdom||Supreme Court of the United Kingdom||The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom is the highest appeal court in almost all cases in England and Wales. Before the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 this role was held by the House of Lords. The Supreme Court is also the highest court of appeal for devolution matters, a role previously held by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. The Supreme Court has a separate administration from the other courts of England and Wales, and its administration is under a Chief Executive who is appointed by the President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.|
|Senior Courts of England and Wales||Court of Appeal (formally Her Majesty's Court of Appeal in England)||The Court of Appeal deals only with appeals from other courts or tribunals. The Court of Appeal consists of two divisions: the Civil Division hears appeals from the High Court and County Court and certain superior tribunals, while the Criminal Division may only hear appeals from the Crown Court connected with a trial on indictment (i.e., for a serious offence). Its decisions are binding on all courts, including itself, apart from the Supreme Court.|
|High Court of Justice (High Court, formally Her Majesty's High Court of Justice in England)||The High Court of Justice functions both as a civil court of first instance and a criminal and civil appellate court for cases from the subordinate courts. It consists of three divisions: the Queen's Bench, the Chancery and the Family divisions. The divisions of the High Court are not separate courts, but have somewhat separate procedures and practices adapted to their purposes. Although particular kinds of cases will be assigned to each division depending on their subject matter, each division may exercise the jurisdiction of the High Court. However, beginning proceedings in the wrong division may result in a costs penalty. The formation of The Business and Property Courts of England & Wales within the High Court was announced in March 2017, and launched in London in July 2017. The courts would in future administer the specialist jurisdictions that had previously been administered in the Queen's Bench Division under the names of the Admiralty Court, the Commercial Court, and the Technology & Construction Court, and under the Chancery Division's lists for Business, Company and Insolvency, Competition, Intellectual Property, Revenue, and Trusts and Probate.|
|Crown Court||The Crown Court is a criminal court of both original and appellate jurisdiction which in addition handles a limited amount of civil business both at first instance and on appeal. It was established by the Courts Act 1971. It replaced the assizes whereby High Court judges would periodically travel around the country hearing cases, and quarter sessions which were periodic county courts. The Old Bailey is the unofficial name of London's most famous criminal court, which is now part of the Crown Court. Its official name is the "Central Criminal Court". The Crown Court also hears appeals from magistrates' courts. The Crown Court is the only court in England and Wales that has the jurisdiction to try cases on indictment and when exercising such a role it is a superior court in that its judgments cannot be reviewed by the Administrative Court of the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court. The Crown Court is an inferior court in respect of the other work it undertakes, viz. inter alia, appeals from the magistrates’ courts and other tribunals.|
|Subordinate Courts||County Court||The County Court is a national court with a purely civil jurisdiction, sitting in 92 different towns and cities across England and Wales. As from 22 April 2014 there has been a single County Court for England and Wales where previously there was a series of courts. The County Court is so named after the ancient sheriff's court held in each county, but it has no connection with it nor indeed was the jurisdiction of the county courts based on counties. A County Court hearing is presided over by either a district or circuit judge and, except in a small minority of cases such as civil actions against the police, the judge sits alone as trier of fact and law without assistance from a jury. The old county courts' divorce and family jurisdiction was passed on 22 April 2014 to the single Family Court. Until unification in 2014, county courts were local courts in the sense that each one has an area over which certain kinds of jurisdiction, for example, proceedings for possession of land had to be started in the county court in whose district the property lay, but in general any county court in England and Wales could hear any action and claims were frequently transferred from court to court.|
|Family Court||The Family Court is a national Court and has jurisdiction to hear all Family cases in England and Wales. Local jurisdictional boundaries have disappeared and there is only one single jurisdiction for all family proceedings. The Family Court sits at many locations in England and Wales, and it usually sits at the County Courts and Magistrates Courts where family work was previously heard by county courts or family proceedings courts. Family Court judges are now more categories of judges who will be eligible to hear family cases including lay magistrates, district judges, circuit judges, and High Court judges from the Family Division.|
|Magistrates' Courts||Magistrates' courts are the criminal court where all criminal proceedings start. They are presided over by a bench of lay magistrates (a.k.a. justices of the peace), or a legally trained district judge (formerly known as a stipendiary magistrate), sitting in each local justice area. There are no juries. They have jurisdiction to hear minor criminal cases, as well as certain licensing appeals.|
|Youth Courts||Youth courts are run on similar lines to adult magistrates' courts but deal with offenders aged between the ages of ten and seventeen inclusive. Youth courts are presided over by a specially trained subset of experienced adult magistrates or a district judge. Youth magistrates have a wider catalogue of disposals available to them for dealing with young offenders and often hear more serious cases against youths (which for adults would normally be dealt with by the Crown Court). Youth courts are not open to the public for observation, only the parties involved in a case being admitted.|
Legal profession is a profession, and legal professionals study, develop and apply law. Usually, there is a requirement for someone choosing a career in law to first obtain a law degree or some other form of legal education.
It is difficult to generalize about the structure of the profession, because
- there are two major legal systems, and even within them, there are different arrangements in jurisdictions, and
- terminology varies greatly.
While in civil law countries there are usually distinct clearly defined career paths in law, such as judge, in common law jurisdictions there tends to be one legal profession, and it is not uncommon, for instance, that a requirement for a judge is several years of practising law privately.
A judge is a person who presides over court proceedings, either alone or as a part of a panel of judges. The powers, functions, method of appointment, discipline, and training of judges vary widely across different jurisdictions. The judge is supposed to conduct the trial impartially and, typically, in an open court. The judge hears all the witnesses and any other evidence presented by the barristers of the case, assesses the credibility and arguments of the parties, and then issues a ruling on the matter at hand based on his or her interpretation of the law and his or her own personal judgment. In some jurisdictions, the judge's powers may be shared with a jury. In inquisitorial systems of criminal investigation, a judge might also be an examining magistrate.
Lawyer, Advocate, Attorney[modifica]
Practising law means advising and representing clients as a private practitioner or in a law firm. In most countries, law graduates need to undergo some sort of apprenticeship, membership in a professional organization and a licence.
The name for this profession is lawyer or attorney in most of English-speaking world, and advocate in many other countries.
Before the creation of the Supreme Court of Judicature under the Supreme Court of Judicature Act 1873, solicitors practised in the Court of Chancery, attorneys practised in the common law courts and proctors practised in the ecclesiastical courts. After 1873 the offices of "attorney" and "proctor" disappeared as terms relating to legally qualified persons, being replaced by "Solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales", except for the unique government offices of Queen's or King's Proctor (now generally Treasury Solicitor which is co-held with the title), and Attorney-General. Since the replacement of the judicial aspect of the House of Lords with the Supreme Court the full title of a solicitor is "Solicitor of the Senior Courts of England and Wales".
The term "attorney" is however still used under English law to refer to someone legally appointed or empowered (who may but need not be legally qualified) to act for another person. Currently, the term is most commonly used to refer to someone so appointed under a "power of attorney". This may be a "general power of attorney" or limited to a particular transaction; a Lasting Power of Attorney may be granted under the provisions of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and is an exception to the normal rule that a power of attorney lapses if the donor becomes mentally incapable. Practitioners in specialist professions, notably intellectual property, are also referred to as attorneys, for example Registered Patent Attorney or Registered Trade Mark Attorney.
In the English legal system, solicitors traditionally dealt with any legal matter including conducting proceedings in courts although solicitors were required to engage a barrister as advocate in a High Court or above after the profession split in two. Minor criminal cases are tried in Magistrates Courts, which constitute by far the majority of courts. More serious criminal cases still start in the Magistrates Court and may then be transferred to a higher court.
The majority of civil cases are tried in county courts and are almost always handled by solicitors. Cases of higher value (£50,000 or above) and those of unusual complexity are tried in the High Court, and barristers, as the other branch of the English legal profession, have traditionally carried out the functions of advocacy in the High Court and Crown Court and Court of Appeal. In the past, barristers did not deal with the public directly. This rigid separation no longer applies. Solicitor advocates with extended rights of audience may now act as advocates at all levels of the courts. Conversely, the public may now hire and interact with a barrister directly in certain types of work without having to go to a solicitor first. Registered Patent Attorneys and Registered Trade Mark Attorneys also have rights of audience in intellectual property matters.
The profession of barrister in England and Wales is a separate profession from that of solicitor. It is, however, possible to hold the qualification of both barrister and solicitor at the same time. It is not necessary to leave the bar to qualify as a solicitor.
Barristers are regulated by the Bar Standards Board, a division of the General Council of the Bar. A barrister must be a member of one of the Inns of Court, which traditionally educated and regulated barristers. There are four Inns of Court: The Honourable Society of Lincoln's Inn, The Honourable Society of Gray's Inn, The Honourable Society of the Middle Temple, and The Honourable Society of the Inner Temple. All are situated in central London, near the Royal Courts of Justice. They perform scholastic and social roles, and in all cases, provide financial aid to student barristers (subject to merit) through scholarships. It is the Inns that actually "call" the student to the Bar at a ceremony similar to a graduation. Social functions include dining with other members and guests and hosting other events.
Law graduates wishing to work and be known as barristers must take the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC – previously Bar Vocational Course or BVC) at one of the institutions authorised by the Bar Council to offer the BPTC. On successful completion of the BPTC student barristers are "called" to the bar by their respective inns and are elevated to the degree of "Barrister". However, before they can practise independently they must first undertake 12 months of pupillage. The first six months of this period is spent shadowing more senior practitioners, after which pupil barristers may begin to undertake some court work of their own. Following successful completion of this stage, most barristers then join a set of Chambers, a group of counsel who share the costs of premises and support staff whilst remaining individually self-employed.
In December 2014 there were just over 15,500 barristers in independent practice, of whom about ten percent are Queen's Counsel and the remainder are junior barristers. Many barristers (about 2,800) are employed in companies as 'in-house' counsel, or by local or national government or in academic institutions.
Certain barristers in England and Wales are now instructed directly by members of the public. Members of the public may engage the services of the barrister directly within the framework of the Public Access Scheme; a solicitor is not involved at any stage. Barristers undertaking public access work can provide legal advice and representation in court in almost all areas of law (see the Public Access Information on the Bar Council website) and are entitled to represent clients in any court or tribunal in England and Wales. Once instructions from a client are accepted, it is the barrister (rather than the solicitor) who advises and guides the client through the relevant legal procedure or litigation.
Before a barrister can undertake Public Access work, they must have completed a special course. At present, about one in 20 barristers has so qualified. There is also a separate scheme called 'Licensed Access', available to certain nominated classes of professional client; it is not open to the general public. Public access work is experiencing a huge surge at the bar, with barristers taking advantage of the new opportunity for the bar to make profit in the face of legal aid cuts elsewhere in the profession.
The ability of barristers to accept such instructions is a recent development; it results from a change in the rules set down by the General Council of the Bar in July 2004. The Public Access Scheme has been introduced as part of the drive to open up the legal system to the public and to make it easier and cheaper to obtain access to legal advice. It further reduces the distinction between solicitors and barristers. The distinction remains however because there are certain aspects of a solicitor's role that a barrister is not able to undertake.
Some honorific suffixes to signify notable barristers may be Esquire. Even though the term barrister-at-law is sometimes seen, and was once very common, it has never been formally correct in England and Wales. Barrister is the only correct nomenclature. Some honorific suffixes to signify notable barristers may be Esquire. Even though the term barrister-at-law is sometimes seen, and was once very common, it has never been formally correct in England and Wales. Barrister is the only correct nomenclature.