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10.1.1 The Judiciary - Introduction

Welcome to the tenth topic in this module guide - the Judiciary! The judiciary is the system of courts that interprets and applies the law. The role of the court system is to decide cases, including the determination of the relevant facts, then the determination of the relevant law and the application of the relevant facts to the relevant law. In England and Wales there exists a range of courts, which operate in a hierarchical system and undertake an array of functions.

At the lowermost level of the hierarchy is the Magistrates’ Court, the County Court and the First Tier Tribunal. The Magistrates’ Court adjudicates the less serious criminal offences, whereas the County Court and the First Tier Tribunal adjudicate civil matters. The Crown Court is one level above the Magistrates’ Court and also hears criminal cases; these are of a more serious nature than the cases heard in the Magistrates’ Court.

At the subsequent level of the hierarchy the High Court and the Upper Tribunal exists. The Court of Appeal (which is divided into a civil division and a criminal division) is one level above the High Court and the Upper Tribunal.

At the uppermost level of the hierarchy is the Supreme Court.

Below are some goals and objectives for you to refer to after learning this section.

Goals for this section:

  • To understand the hierarchy of the courts.
  • To identify the specialisms the court structure is divided into.
  • To understand the difference between the civil division, the criminal division and the administrative division.

Objectives for this section:

  • To be able to analyse the role of the judiciary.
  • To be able to understand the separation of powers doctrine.
  • To be able to comprehend the courts’ role in the United Kingdom’s constitution.
  • To be able to understand how judges are appointed.

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