What is the Crown Court?

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  • Written By: Jessica F. Black
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 25 January 2020
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The United Kingdom's Crown Court has more than 90 locations throughout England and Wales. Its primary purpose is to handle crimes of a serious nature. Cases are often sent by the magistrates' courts, the lowest courts in England, to the Crown Court because of the severity of the offense. The Crown Court oversees juvenile and adult cases, which are heard by a 12-person jury and a High Court judge. There is a hierarchical judge system within the court consisting of three types of judges, but most cases are heard by the High Court judge.

The High Court of England has limited control over the Crown Court, mostly because of the time it takes to appeal to this higher court, so it chiefly acts own its own accord. The Crown Court was established by the Courts Act of 1971 in an attempt to improve the U.K.'s judicial system by replacing a disorganized series of smaller courts. The disorganization was because of the many jurisdictions and the rotation of High Court judges to hear individual cases. The courts located throughout England and Wales now have their own judges and no longer have a need for a rotating judge circuit.


Juveniles who go before the Crown Court as opposed to the Youth Court often have committed heinous crimes, such as homicide or indecent assault. There is a small selection of cases that are actually sent to the Crown Court under certain guidelines. Some of these guidelines include cases not applicable for a summary trial, a trial heard by the magistrates' court, a youth case that is too serious to be heard in a lesser court and indictable-only cases, which are criminal cases with indisputable evidence.

The Crown Court is a constituent of the Supreme Court of Judicature in England and Wales. One example of an extreme case of the Crown Court is a high-profile case that created a media frenzy in 2010. On 21 December 2010, Stephen Griffiths, who was nicknamed "The Crossbow Cannibal," was sentenced to life in prison by the Leeds Crown Court for murder, dismemberment and cannibalism.


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