Do UK Criminal Justice Courts Achieve their Goals?

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30th Jul 2019 Criminology Reference this

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This essay will discuss the arguments for and against the positional statement “the aims of the courts in England and Wales are always achieved”.  The courts system in the UK is not unified and England and Wales have one system. The courts system across the entire UK deals with both criminal and civil cases. (Contact Law, 2016). The magistrates’ courts are where the vast majority of the criminal cases are heard. These courts also deal with a wide range of civil cases such as people who haven’t paid their council bills. There is also Crown Courts in the UK court system. The Crown Court cases are heard by a judge and a 12-person jury. The Crown Courts deal with serious crimes, for example robbery, rape and murder. (Contact Law, 2016). All of the courts in the UK court system have specific aims that they need to follow. This essay will discuss whether the court system does in fact achieve their aims or whether the court system does not.

The purpose of the Criminal Justice System (CJS) is to deliver justice for all, by convicting and punishing the guilty and helping them to stop offending, while protecting the innocent and to deliver an efficient, effective, accountable and fair justice process for the public. (Garside, 2008). There are certain aims that run across the whole criminal justice system, which should be followed by all agencies, whether it be the courts, police, probation or CRCs. The aims they have set in place include; the aims for public protection, punishment, justice and to deliver fair treatment in every case. (Compass, 2013). The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) works in partnership with the courts and other agencies throughout the Criminal Justice System. (cps.gov, 2017). The CPS also have their own aims including prosecuting without being bias, and to deliver justice in every case. The CPS aim to explain their decisions properly and to be honest if they have made a mistake, like a miscarriage of justice. They also aim to work as one team, always seeking new and better ways to deliver the best possible service for the public. (cps.gov, 2017). Each department in the Criminal Justice System prioritises aims differently depending on their individual involvement in the system, for example, the police, the courts, probation and CRCs, all have different roles in the system and therefore achieve the aims differently. However, the court system prioritises specific aims depending on the particular case that they are dealing with at the time, whether it be a criminal case or a civil case.

This positional statement can be true to a certain extent when the aim to deliver fair treatment is achieved by the courts by them performing a fair trial, by making sure that the defendant receives proper treatment while being prosecuted. This is by prosecuting those who have committed the crime and acquitting those who are innocent. Delivering fair treatment can be achieved by the courts when following the rule, burden of proof, upon prosecution. This is whereby prosecution must prove its case against the defendant and not for the defendant to prove their innocence. (Hucklesbury, 2013). This shows that the defendants get a fair treatment by the court system. This is due to the courts following “innocent until proven guilty”. In addition to this, another example of whereby the courts deliver fair treatment is by following the rule standard of proof. In a criminal trial, the standard of proof is successfully met when the prosecution presents facts that convince the jury “beyond a reasonable doubt”. (Horiwitz, L.A, 1997). This aim gives the defendant fair treatment and is shown by the courts in all cases, to do this the criminal justice system provides the means by which people who break the law are apprehended and ensures that those people who are accused of a crime are processed in a fair, just and equitable manner. (Robinson and Cussen 2017).

Punishment is one of the main aims in the criminal justice system. This is sentencing in accordance with specific principles. If you are found guilty of a crime, your sentence will depend on a number of factors, including the type, seriousness and circumstances of the crime. To achieve this aim there are many theories the court system need to take into consideration before punishing a defendant. For example, the theory of reformation. This is to reform the criminal so that he will not commit a crime again. Another theory is deterrence, that the criminal himself and other potential criminals will be discouraged from committing a crime through fear of punishment. An example of this is where the UK alongside other countries, have moved the problem of sexual offending up the political agenda. On the criminal justice side sentences have been increased and supervision periods extended. (Thomas, T., 2004). The increase in sentences would be seen as a deterrent for sex offenders. This is the court system trying to prevent crime by using the theory of deterrence, achieving the aim of punishment. Another theory the courts are mindful of is incapacitation, that the criminal is prevented from committing crimes again, typically by imprisonment. The final theory is retribution, where by the criminal should be punished in proportion to their blameworthiness. (Herring, 2017). These theories are used differently by each court in the UK court system when deciding a punishment in a case, due to different circumstances that may occur. This is because these theories have their own way of preventing crime as they can be more effective on certain criminals than others. By the judge or magistrate considering these theories before sentencing, the court system achieves the aim of punishment. The dominant theory at present appears to be ‘just deserts’, also known as retribution. (Herring, 2017).

Even though the court system may achieve many of their aims, this positional statement is not always true, and the court system does not achieve all of the aims set in place. For example, the aim to protect the public when sentencing a criminal. The Sentencing Council for England and Wales promotes greater consistency in sentencing, whilst maintaining the independence of the judiciary. (Sentencing Council, 2017). The courts system in England and Wales aim to keep the public safe when criminals are sentenced to imprisonment as it is seen as keeping the criminals off the streets so that they have no opportunity to commit more crimes harming the public. However, with sentences for certain crimes being so short in many circumstances, the criminals that are then released from prison have the opportunity to reoffend again. The proven reoffending rate for adult offenders released from custody or court orders was 38.2%, an increase of 0.1 percentage points compared to the same period in 2015. (Gov, 2016). Adults who served custodial sentences of less than 12 months had a proven reoffending rate of 64.5%. (Gov, 2016). This explains how this aim to keep the public protected is not always achieved by the court system as these statistics prove that a large number of offenders that are released reoffend, potentially putting the public back in danger. Another example where the aim for public protection isn’t always achieved is where sentences for crimes such as, a murder involving the use of a firearm or a murder done for gain, like in the course of a robbery or burglary including crimes where the seriousness of the offence is particularly high, has a starting point of 30 years in prison. (cps.gov, 2017).  However even though a 30-year sentence may seem long and justified, after they have served their time the offender is then back onto the streets where they may continue to commit crimes, putting the public in danger once again therefore this aim is not achieved, even when the offender gets one of the longest sentences.

Courts play a very crucial role in ensuring justice is attained within the criminal justice system. This includes justice for the families affected by the crime and justice for the victim involved in the crime.  Courts have a duty to deliver justice when sentencing criminals, they need to take into account the seriousness of the crime, when deciding a sentence and how this will affect the public. In the most sickening and evil cases, criminals in the UK can be given lifelong anonymity. It means once they have been released they cannot be identified by law. (The Mirror, 2018). This is an example of how justice is not always achieved by the court system. This is due to the fact that in certain cases ex-convicts like Jon venables and Mary Bell, were released from prison and were granted lifelong anonymity, giving them new identities for their own safety. By this the court system is not achieving their aim of delivering justice because the convict is able carry on living their life, after committing such horrific crimes. They are then back with the public where by nobody knows who they actually are. This is potentially putting other members of the public in danger, for example Jon venables is on his forth new identity as he continues to reoffend. (The Daily Star).

However, there are other ways in which the court system does attain justice. The courts provide evidence-based analysis and proposing practical solutions to law-makers, judges and relevant public servants, while strengthening the law by looking across jurisdictions, across types of law and across the legal profession. (Justice Org, 2018).

In conclusion, this essay has explained how this positional statement on whether the aims of the court system in England and Wales are achieved is partially true. This is due to the fact that the courts prioritise their aims differently in each particular case, while still trying to achieve them all. This essay shows that the court system does in fact achieve some of the aims that they have set in place, for example having fair treatment for the defendant and achieving the aim for punishment. Treating the defendant correctly, giving them fair treatment is important as in the UK legal system, a defendant is innocent until proven guilty and this is for the prosecution to prove this. Due to this, it is crucial that the defendant is given a fair trial by the courts in order to get the correct verdict, avoiding any miscarriages of justice. This essay also explains how the court system achieves the aim for punishment, when sentencing criminals, as they consider all theories before doing so. In spite of this the court system doesn’t attain all of their aims. This is shown in this essay in regard to keeping the public safe and for delivering justice. The courts do not always achieve their aim to protect the public, this is because the sentences of imprisonment are so short, even for horrific crimes. This results in some offenders reoffending. This essay also explains how the court system doesn’t always achieve justice, making this positional statement only partially true.

Bibliography

  • Assets.publishings.service.gov.uk. (2018). Proven Reoffending Statistics Quarterly Bulletin, October 2016 to December 2016. [online] Available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/751109/proven_reoffending_bulletin_October_to_December_16.pdf [Accessed 27 Oct. 2018].
  • Cps.gov.uk. (2017). Sentencing – Mandatory life sentences in Murder cases. [online] Available at: https://www.cps.gov.uk/legal-guidance/sentencing-mandatory-life-sentences-murder-cases [Accessed 26 Oct. 2018].
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  • Contactlaw.co.uk. (2016). Types of courts in the UK. [online] Available at: https://www.contactlaw.co.uk/types-of-courts-in-the-uk [Accessed 28 Oct. 2018].
  • Davidson, T. (2018). The four criminals handed lifelong anonymity like James Bulger’s killers Jon Venables and Robert Thompson. [online] Mirror.co.uk. Available at: https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/four-criminals-handed-lifelong-anonymity-11990821 [Accessed 27 Oct. 2018].
  • Garside, R. (2008). The purpose of the criminal justice system. [online] crimeandjustcie.org.uk. Available at: https://www.crimeandjustice.org.uk/resources/purpose-criminal-justice-system [Accessed 26 Oct. 2018].
  • Herring, J., 2017, criminal law. 10th ed. Palgrave, p.31
  • Horiwitz, L.A., 1997. Reasonable doubt instructions: Common sense justice and standard of proof. Psychology, public policy, and law, 3(2-3), p285
  • Hucklesbury, A, 2013, Criminal Justice, second edition, oxford, p.107
  • Justice.or.uk. (2018). Our Mission. [online] Available at: https://justice.org.uk/about-us/ [Accessed 28 Oct. 2018].
  •  Lawton, J. (2017). Bulger killer Jon Venables has FOURTH identity revealed after being locked up again. [online] dailystar.co.uk. Available at: https://www.dailystar.co.uk/news/latest-news/662539/Jon-Venables-identity-revealed-after-child-porn-bust-James-Bulger [Accessed 28 Oct. 2018].
  • Roninson, S. and Cussen, T. (2017). The Criminology & Criminology Justice Companion. Palgrave, p.6.
  • Sentencingcoucil.org.uk. (2017). Sentencing. [online] Available at: https://www.sentencingcouncil.org.uk/publications/ [Accessed 27 Oct. 2018].
  • Thomas, T., 2004. When public protection becomes punishment? The UK use of civil measures to contain the sex offender. European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research10(4), pp.337-351.

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