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British Courts

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There are four countries and three separate systems of law in the United Kingdom: the legal system of law and courts of 1.England and Wales; 2.Scotland; 3.Northern Ireland. However, there are some common features to all systems in the U.K.: the sources of law, the distinctions between civil and criminal law.

The sources of law include written law (statutes, Acts of Parliament) and unwritten law (Common law and Equity). Common law is based on judicial precedent. It means that when one judge had decided a point of law, any other judge who has the similar set of facts must decide case in the same way as in the earlier judgement.

The lowest courts are called Magistrates’ courts, or police courts. Magistrates’ courts are presided over by Justices of the Peace (JP), or lay magistrates. They work part-time and are unpaid. The courts consist of between two to seven magistrates. There are about 700 magistrates’ courts and about 30,000magistrates.

More serious criminal cases go to the Crown court, which has 90 branches in different towns and cities. Appeals from Magistrates’ courts are also heard there. The accused have the right to be tried by the jury.

There is the Central Criminal Court of London. It is known as the Old Bailey.

County courts are the main civil courts. The High court hears all those civil cases that cannot be decided by county courts.

The Court of Appeal hears both criminal and civil appeals. But the final criminal appellate tribunal is the House of Lords. Ten judges in the House of Lords are called the «Law Lords».

The legal system also includes juvenile courts (which deal with offenders under seventeen) and coroners’ courts (which investigate violent, sudden or unnatural deaths). There are administrative tribunals which make quick, cheap and fair decisions with much less formality. Tribunals deal with professional standards, disputes between individuals, and disputes between individuals and government departments (for example, over taxation).


3. Find in the text above the English equivalents for the following words and expressions:

Источник права; различие между уголовным и гражданским правом; основанное на судебном прецеденте; подобные факты; суды низшей инстанции; работать бесплатно; иметь право на судебное разбирательство с судом присяжных; гражданские апелляции; члены палаты лордов, рассматривающие судебные дела, правонарушитель, насильственная смерть.


4. Give as many word combinations as you can with the given words:

To try (уголовное дело, гражданское дело и т.д.);

Court ( низшей инстанции, апелляционный, мировой и т.д.);

Case (возбудить, судебное, решать и т.д.);

To appoint (председателя суда, судью, прокурора и т.д.).

5. Find in the text above the Russian equivalents for the following key words and expressions:

- separate system of law

- common features

- lay magistrate

- to work part-time

- a point of law

- unwritten law

- to hear criminal appeals

- final appellate tribunal

- juvenile courts

- administrative tribunals

- fair decisions

- sudden and unnatural deaths.


6. Write down the words from which the adjectives are formed and translate the words into Russian:

Judicial __________________ parliamentary ________________

Constitutional _____________ decisive _____________________

Systematical _______________ unwritten ____________________

Elementary ________________ conventional _________________

Legislative ________________ knowledgeable _______________

Governmental _____________ advisory ____________________

7. Make up 6 sentences and try to say each of them by heart:

1. Magistrates’ courts. 1. hears all civil cases that cannot be

decided by county courts.

2. County courts. 2. is the final appellate tribunal.

3. Crown courts. 3. are the main civil courts.

4. High court. 4. try the majority of all criminal cases and

some civil cases.

5. Court of Appeal. 5. hears both criminal and civil appeals.

6. House of Lords. 6. deals with all the more serious criminal



8. Confirm or deny the statements using the following phrases:

It’s right…

Quite so…

I quite agree with it…

I don’t agree with it…

Excuse me but…

On the contrary…

I am afraid it’s not quite so…

1. There are two separate systems of law in the United Kingdom.

2. Common law is based on judicial precedent.

3. The lowest courts are called Crown courts.

4. The Crown courts consist of between two to seven magistrates.

5. County courts are the main criminal courts.

6. The Court of Appeals hears only civil appeals.

7. The final criminal appellate tribunal is the House of Commons.

8. There are administrative tribunals which make quick, cheap and fair

decisions with much less formality.


9. Use the verbs in the correct forms and translate the sentences:

1. Prosecution in the UK (to initiate) and conducted by the police.

2. Police courts in towns (to hear) less serious cases.

3. Police courts (to consist) of 2 – 7 justices of the peace who (to be) often without legal training.

4. In some cases the magistrates (to advise) by Clerks of the Court.

5. A magistrates’ court (to be) in session two times a week.


10. Choose the correct form and translate the sentences:

1. If a person breaks the law he must bring/be brought first before a magistrates’ court.

2. A magistrates’ court has the power to fine/to be fined people up to 100 pounds.

3. A magistrates’ court can also send/be sent people to prison for up to six months.

4. If a case is too serious it sends/is sent to the Crown Court.

5. If there are any appeals they send/are sent to the Court of Appeals.

6. Appeals on very serious cases consider/are considered by the House of Lords Court of Appeals.

11. Retell the text using the following key word combinations:

Three separate systems of law; based on judicial precedent; to have similar set of facts; to work part-time; to deal with all more serious cases; the main civil courts; the final criminal appellate tribunal; juvenile courts; coroners’ courts.


12. Give the explanation of the following in English:

a) the Old Bailey;

b) Law Lords.

13. Translate the following definitions into Russian:

1. trial – the presentation of evidence in court to a tier of facts who applies the applicable law to those facts and then decides the case.

2. action – proceeding taken in court synonymous to case, suit, lawsuit.

3. evidence – a form of proof legally presented at a trial through witnesses, records, documents, etc.

4. stipendiary– full-time paid magistrate who has qualified as a lawyer.

5. lay magistrate– unpaid and established member of the local community.

6. plaintiff–the party who begins an action, complains or sues.


14. Circle the odd ones out:

1. prosecution defence theft

2. sentence alibi excuse

3. verdict decision complaint

4. try convict find guilty

5. evidence court proof

6. lawyer judge defendant

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