Who’s who in the Magistrates Court?

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GOING to court can be a daunting process, especially if you don’t know who everyone is involved in the process.

But the Sentencing Council and the HM Courts and Tribunals Service have published plenty of advice to help.

Here are some of the people you might see in the courtroom and what they are doing.

The defendant is the person who has been accused of breaking the law. The accused is usually seated on the platform and sometimes a uniformed officer is seated next to them.

The defendant. All images: HM Courts and Tribunals Service / Sentencing Council

The supporter witness may be able to sit with a witness while they testify.

Partisan witness.  All images: HM Courts and Tribunals Service / Sentencing Council

Partisan witness. All images: HM Courts and Tribunals Service / Sentencing Council

The witness answers questions from the witness box. A young or vulnerable witness usually testifies from another room in the building using a TV link. The magistrates will decide whether a supporter can sit with the witness.

Witness.  All images: HM Courts and Tribunals Service / Sentencing Council

Witness. All images: HM Courts and Tribunals Service / Sentencing Council

Defense lawyer / prosecutorthe job of helping the defendant. This lawyer acts on their instructions by asking questions of the witness. Sometimes a defendant will represent himself.

Defence lawyer.  All images: HM Courts and Tribunals Service / Sentencing Council

Defence lawyer. All images: HM Courts and Tribunals Service / Sentencing Council

The prosecutor is the lawyer who presents the case fairly against the defendant. They do this by presenting evidence and asking the witness questions about what they saw or heard, or what happened to them. They will also challenge the defensive version of events.

The prosecutor.  All images: HM Courts and Tribunals Service / Sentencing Council

The prosecutor. All images: HM Courts and Tribunals Service / Sentencing Council

The bailiff sometimes wears a black robe and will take you into the courtroom. While you are waiting, you can ask the bailiff for help if you need anything. If you leave the waiting room, you must inform the usher.

The bailiff.  All images: HM Courts and Tribunals Service / Sentencing Council

The bailiff. All images: HM Courts and Tribunals Service / Sentencing Council

Legal adviser advises magistrates on the law and helps to manage legal proceedings.

The legal adviser.  All images: HM Courts and Tribunals Service / Sentencing Council

The legal adviser. All images: HM Courts and Tribunals Service / Sentencing Council

The magistrates are in charge of the courtroom. There are usually three magistrates, but there may be two or only one district judge. They don’t wear wigs or dresses. Magistrates decide whether the defendant has broken the law and how they are treated.

The magistrates.  All images: HM Courts and Tribunals Service / Sentencing Council

The magistrates. All images: HM Courts and Tribunals Service / Sentencing Council

Members of the public can sit quietly and listen at the back of the court.

The public.  All images: HM Courts and Tribunals Service / Sentencing Council

The public. All images: HM Courts and Tribunals Service / Sentencing Council

Members of the press may also attend to cover hearings as part of their duties to keep the public informed about what is happening in court. This can be in person or through the court’s video link system

To find out more visit: https://www.sentencingcouncil.org.uk/


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