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Court visit Report

Legal Methods & Systems: Assessed Coursework DO NOT COPY

Legal Methods & Systems Assessed Coursework

Court Report

The courts of the United Kingdom are institutions which aim to deliver justice. Whether convicting someone for unlawful activity or resolving a civil dispute, the British legal system employs a variety of courts in its application of the law. For example, Magistrates courts have the jurisdiction to try minor offences whereas more serious offences are referred to the Crown courts. There are also appellate courts, which include the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court; formally known as the House of Lords. In order to gain a better understanding of the workings of our legal system, I visited the Crown and County courts in Manchester.

Courtroom activity can be witnessed from public galleries. This implementation is aimed at making the legal process open and transparent to the public. This is an obvious advantage of the legal system and should create greater trust between the population and the legal system under which they live. However, understandably there are exceptions to the open court principle, in particular when it comes to Youth or Family courts, which means some trails can be held privately. During my visits, there were both journalists and family members present at public galleries watching the court proceedings.

On arrival at the courts, personal belongings are checked by security guards. Security checks are done in order to ensure the court remains a safe environment. Upon entry I obtained a list of the cases being heard on that particular day. During the day I was able to witness several sentencing cases as well as the beginning of a trial.

This trial involved a defendant who had been charged on two accounts. The first charge was for possession with intent to supply A class drugs under Section 4 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 and the second was possession of class A drugs. As the defendant pleaded not guilty to the charges, he was tried before a judge and jury.

The jury consisted of 5 white females and 7 white males. Although there were no non-white jury members in the selection, the jurors were of varying ages. One of the criticisms of random jury selection is that it can lead to an unrepresentative selection which might count against the defendant. The use of the electoral register to generate random selections of jurors is supposed to produce a group of 12 jurors who are a representative sample of society. However in reality this random selection is not always a true representative of society, whereby 12 people of the same ethnic background may be selected on a single jury. One possible counter argument to this criticism is that despite randomly selected juries not producing true representations of society, having a random selection makes a fair jury and that 12 jurors should neutralise any bias or prejudices that a minority may have. Lord Denning’s statement that “12 persons selected at random are likely to be a cross-section of the people as a whole - and thus represent the views of the common man”[1] can be supported by the idea that a random and untouched jury is arguably better than one that has been pre-selected and altered.

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