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The English Court System


Court of Justice of the European Communities


House of Lords


  Court of Appeal, Criminal Division     Court of Appeal, Civil Division  
Crown Court High Court
Magistrates Court County Court


1. Claims of lesser value will start in a County Court. There are 250 of these around the country. They can also deal with divorce and bankruptcy matters.

2. Matters of important legal dispute arising in the Crown Court may be appealed to the______________.

3. From the Court of Appeal, there can be an appeal to the______________on fact or law, but usually appeal is only allowed on matters of legal importance.

4. If the case involves a serious crime, it is heard in the______________(there is only one _______________but it has about 70 centres around the jurisdiction).

5. In less serious criminal cases (which comprise over 90% of criminal cases), the case is sent for trial in one of over 400________________.

6. More substantial civil claims (over around £25,000) are heard in the______________.

7. The______________ was set up under the Treaty of Rome of 1957, by which the European Community was established. The court can overrule all other courts on matters of Community law.

8. Under the system of appeals in civil cases, it is possible to appeal from a County Court or the High Court to the______________.

3. Use the information given above to answer the questions.

1. Who is responsible for making laws in Britain?

2. In the United Kingdom, what is the difference between criminal and civil law?

3. What is the most common type of law court in England and Wales?

4. Name three other types of British courts.

4. Work in pairs and discuss the following.

Which courts do you think would deal with:

a) a bank robbery?

b) a divorce case?

c) a burglary committed by a fifteen-year-old?

d) a drowning?

e) a case of driving too fast?

5. A criminal is someone who commits a crime. Below are 12 phrases using the word criminal. Link each phrase to its definition. The first is done for you.

1. Court of Criminal Appeal – e)

2. criminal contempt

3. criminal negligence

4. criminal court

5. criminal forfeiture

6. criminal law

7. criminal lawyer

8. criminal procedure

9. criminal record

10. habitual criminal

11. criminal liability

12. war criminal



a) barrister or solicitor who specializes in felonies and misdemeanours

b) a person charged with or convicted of crimes against humanity

c) previous crimes of which an individual has been convicted

d) rules governing the investigation of crimes; the arrest, charging, and trial of accused criminals; and the sentencing of those convicted (found guilty of a crime)

e) one of the higher courts of law which hears cases sent up for review

f) disorderly behaviour, disrespect, or disobedience of a judge's orders, particularly during a trial

g) a person who repeatedly commits offences

h) where an individual fails to exercise a duty of care and the resulting action leads to the commission of a crime

i) the branch of law which deals with felonies and misdemeanours

j) study of the mental processes and behaviour of persons who commit crimes

к) a court with jurisdiction to hear felonies and misdemeanours

l) responsibility for committing a crime (excluded persons include minors and the insane)


6. Criminal procedure. Below are the stages of the criminal procedure. Match each step to its correct definition.

1. crime reported

2. investigation by police

3. investigation of suspect

4. apprehension of suspect

5. charge of suspect

6. remand in custody

7. release on bail

8. interrogation of accused

9. interrogation of witnesses

10. appearance in court

11. decision of jury

12. judgement of judge

13. conviction of accused

14. acquittal of accused

15. sentence by judge

16. appeal against judgement

a) _______________: the police free the person alleged to have committed the crime on condition that the accused appears at court at a future date

b) _______________: the jury panel make a decision whether they believe (beyond reasonable doubt) that the accused committed the crime of which he/she is accused

c) _______________: the judge decides punishment

d) _______________: the police carry out a systematic examination of the person who may have committed a crime

e) ________________: the police receive information that a crime may have been committed

f) ________________: the police make a claim of wrongdoing against the person alleged to have committed the crime

g) ________________: the police carry out further questioning of the person alleged to have committed the crime

h) ________________: the defendant is found not guilty of the charge

i) ________________: the accused comes to court to face charges

j) ________________: the police carry out a detailed enquiry into the alleged crime

к) ________________: after being found guilty, the accused brings an action to clear his/her name or to reduce the sentence

l) ________________: the police arrest the person who is alleged to have committed the crime

m) ________________: the police detain the person alleged to have committed the crime

n) ________________: the judge makes a judicial decision

о) ________________: the police collect evidence against the accused from those who can give evidence

p) ________________: the defendant is found guilty

7. Match the sentences on the left with the most suitable response on the right. Use the words and expressions in bold to help you. There is an example at the beginning (1-a).


1. Is shoplifting illegal? a) Yes. Itis against the law.
2. There was a burglarylast night. b) Wear a money belt.
3. There was a robberylast night. с) Instead, he was accused of manslaughter.
4. How can you make sure nobody takes your valuableswhen you are staying in a hotel? d) There were lawyers, judgesand policeeverywhere.
5. I carry a gun so that I can protect myself. e) Believe it or not, he was acquitted.
6. What's the best way to protect your property? f) There were only five cells.
7. What's the best way to prevent pickpocketstaking your cash when you're travelling? g) He got outof jail last week.
8. Is your home well-protected? h) Put them in a safe.
9. He didn't receive any punishmentat all. i) No, we no longer executepeople.
10. He didn't go to prison,but the judge decided he had to be punished. j) The police chargedhim with robberyand shoplifting.
11. How long was he sentencedto? k) No,he got away.
12. What happened after he was arrested? l) Well, make sure you only use it in self-defence.
13. Did he admithe was guilty? m) No, he said he was innocent.
14. Do you have capital punishmentin your country? n) Lifeimprisonment.
15. Are the police in your country armed? o) No, but I always lockthe door and leave the lights onwhen I go out.
16. The prisonwas very small. p) He received a heavy fineinstead.
17. The courtwas very busy. q) Fit a burglar alarmin the house.
18. When was he released? r) Somebody broke intothe house opposite mine.
19. Was the thief caught? s) Somebody stoleover £20,000 from a bank on the High Street.
20. He killed somebody, but it wasn't intentional, so he wasn't charged with murder. t) No, they don't carry guns.  

8. Complete the sentences using words from the box. The first is done for you.

arrest bail charge committed court dofonco evidence fine juvenile lawyer prosecution prove sentence verdict witness


1. The defence lawyer said that his client didn't intend to cause injury.

2. Drop the gun. That's better. Now you are under____________.

3. I know my rights. I want to phone my___________.

4. The prosecution says that my client stole millions of pounds via the internet. But where is the____________?

5. The ___________ of this court is 'guilty'. Have you anything to say?

6. Everyone knew the woman was 100% guilty, but they just couldn't ____________ it.

7. I now call my next ____________, Mrs. McPherson, the defendant's mother-in-law.

8. You are a rich man, and just paying a ____________will not punish you enough. I am going to send you to prison. Let this be a lesson to you.

9. Officer, you have arrested my client. Now you must either ____________her or let her go.

10. For those from 14 under 16 there is a special____________ court.

11. The Appeal Court might reduce your ___________years to, say, three. But they can also increase it.

12. You can deposit £50,000 with the court, and be released on ____________. But if you disappear, you will lose the money. Do you understand that?

13. If your defence lawyer is better than the ____________ lawyer, you may get off.

14. This wicked man has ____________the most appalling crimes, and all decent people will agree that he should receive a very long prison sentence indeed.

15. Be in ____________at 9.30. The hearing begins at 10 o'clock, and the magistrates don't like to be kept waiting.

The legal system in Britain seems very old-fashioned. The judges and lawyers still wear black gowns and white wigs. Lawyers have to address the judge as M'lud (= My Lord). So you will not be surprised that the language of the law is also rather antique, with very long sentences and bits of French and Latin thrown in.


9. Sentencing. Below is a range of sentences that may be imposed. Match each sentence to its definition. The first is done for you.

  bond   binding over
  capital punishment   suspended sentence
  jail   peace bond
  parole   community service
  imprisonment   determinate sentence
  probation   prison
  concurrent sentence   good behaviour


a) When two or more terms of imprisonment are served together.

b) A place for long-term incarceration for a crime.

c) A place of confinement for time periods longer than those usual for a police station lock-up and shorter than those usual for a prison.

d) Unpaid work undertaken pursuant to a court order upon conviction for an offence in lieu of a sentence of imprisonment.

e)A release from prison, before a sentence is finished, that depends on the person 'keeping clean' and doing what he or she is supposed to do while out. If the person fails to meet the conditions, the rest of the sentence must be served.

f) Conduct required for criminals to get out of jail early or other privileges while in prison.

g) A sentence (usually 'jail time') that the judge allows the convicted person to avoid serving (e.g. if the person continues on good behaviour, completes community service, etc.).

h) A document that promises to pay money if a particular future event happens, or a sum of money that is put up and will be lost if that event happens.

i) An act by which the court requires a bond or bail money.

j) The sentencing of a criminal to a period of time during which they will be deprived of their freedom.

k) A bond, required by a judge of a person likely to 'breach the peace', to guarantee the person's good behaviour for a period of time.

l) An exact prison term that is set by law, rather than one that may be shortened for good behaviour.

m) A kind of punishment given out as part of a sentence, which means that instead of jailing a person convicted of a crime, a judge will order that the person reports to an officer regularly and according to a set schedule.

n) The most severe of all sentences: that of death, also known as the death penalty.


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