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The Court System of England and Wales
This text is limited to the system of courts in England and Wales and does not address issues relating to courts in Scotland and Northern Ireland. In Scotland there is the Roman-Dutch Civil Law system adopted in the 16th century and currently found in most of the Continental Europe. As for Northern Ireland the courts have their jurisdiction which is separate from that of the courts in England and Wales although they also follow the Common Law system.
There are two main types of court in England and Wales: magistrates’ courts (or courts of the first instance), which deal with about 95 per cent of criminal cases and with some civil matters, and Crown Courts for more serious offences. All criminal cases above the level of magistrates’ courts are held before a jury.
There are about 700 magistrates’ courts in England and Wales, served by approximately 28,000 unpaid magistrates or Justices of the Peace (JPs) who are ordinary citizens. A court normally consists of three magistrates, who are advised on points of law by a legally qualified clerk. They may impose a sentence of more than six months imprisonment or a fine of more than 2000 pounds, and may refer cases requiring a heavier penalty to the Crown Court. A Crown Court is presided over by a professional judge, but the verdict is reached by a jury of twelve citizens, who are selected at random. There are some offences where the defendant is given the choice of having his case heard in the magistrates’ court or the Crown Court.
A person convicted in a magistrates’ court may appeal against its decision to the local Crown Court, which will hear the appeal without a jury. On points of law he may appeal directly to the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court. Appeals against a decision of the Crown Court go first to the High Court and, in special cases, to the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division). The highest court of appeal is the House of Lords. The decisions of law lords on both criminal and civil matters bind all other courts. Only the government can overturn a decision of the House of Lords by passing an Act of Parliament.
Apart from the limited civil functions of magistrates’ courts, the lowest court in a civil action is a County Court, of which there is one in every town in England and Wales. The judges are always professionals. They may hear matters such as contract disputes and actions regarding the property of a dead person. Cases involving larger amounts of money are heard by one of the divisions of the High Court. Appeals from the High Court, and most appeals from the County Courts, go to the Court of Appeal (Civil Division).
In addition to the courts mentioned above there are numerous special courts which have been established to make decisions in particular types of dispute, for example, juvenile courts and coroners’ courts.
3. Explain the meaning of the following words and expressions:
- Civil matters
- To decide the law
- Ordinary citizens
- Heavier penalty
- Professional judge
- Civil functions
- Lowest courts
- Juvenile courts
- Coroners’ courts.
4. Complete the table with related forms. Translate into Russian:
5. Find one sentence of the text from the three given below:
1. Judges have different titles depending on their experience, training, and level.
2. There are circuit judges and recorders who sit in the County Courts, usually without a jury.
3. Appeals against a decision of the Crown Court go first to the High Court and, in special cases, to the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division).
6. Find and read the sentences corresponding to these:
1. Лицо, осужденное мировым судом, может обжаловать данное решение в суде Короны, который заслушает апелляцию без присяжных.
2. Высший апелляционный суд – это палата лордов.
3. Судебные дела, включающие привлечение большей суммы денег, заслушиваются одним из отделов Высокого суда правосудия.
4. Судьи – это всегда профессионалы.
7.Correct the following sentences according to the text:
1. There are three main types of court in England and Wales.
2. All criminal cases above the level of magistrates’ courts are never held
before a jury.
3. The highest court of appeal is the House of Commons.
4. The government can not overturn a decision of the House of Lords.
8. Translate from Russian into English using the construction ‘It is … that…’ / ‘именно, как раз, только’
1. Именно это судебное решение было для него главным.
2. Суд короны рассматривает в основном серьезные уголовные дела.
3. Именно мировые судьи рассматривают большинство уголовных и некоторые гражданские дела.
4. Именно адвокат сделал все возможное, чтобы выяснить всю правду об обвиняемом.
5. Именно общее право является одним из главных источников английского права.
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