What are the Different Courts in the UK?

Depending on the severity and nature of the crime you have been accused of, you may be referred to a UK court to stand trial or for sentencing purposes. To understand how each court works and what crimes they tend to deal with, we’ve outlined each one for reference.

When you get a court letter through, more often than not you’ll be referred to a County Court or a Magistrates Court. But did you know there are actually a range of courts within the UK:

  • The County Court
  • The Family Court
  • The Magistrates Court
  • The Crown Court
  • The High Court
  • The Court of Appeal
  • The UK Supreme Court

Typically, you’ll only ever associate with the top 4 courts for a standard crime. However, in some cases (usually in cases of appeal) you may very well find yourself visiting some of the courts in the higher tiers. Here is a little bit of information about each one:

The County Court

The county court deals with civil cases and these are handled by a judge or district judge. A civil case can begin in a county court across the UK but then is usually transferred to the defendant’s local county court at their convenience.

County courts usually deal with claims that involve:

  • Landlord and tenant disputes
  • Consumer disputes
  • Personal injury claims
  • Discrimination cases
  • Debt problems (payments)
  • Employment issues

A case usually ends up in a county court when it cannot be settled by negotiation, arbitration or mediation.

The Family Court

In the UK, the Family Court deals civil claims surrounding family issues and those that are not referred to the County Court including:

  • divorce
  • dissolution of civil partnerships
  • child arrangement orders
  • care and supervision orders
  • adoption
  • non-molestation and occupation orders.

The Family Court is made up of an array of High Court Judges, (sometimes) circuit judges, recorders, district judges, magistrates and legal advisers.

The Magistrates Court

The Magistrates Court is one of the most common and popular courts within the UK. What is unique about a Magistrates Court is that cases are typically dealt with by ‘Justices of the Peace’ who are unpaid legal volunteers. In some occasions, cases may be dealt with District Judges (who are paid) but this is less common.

The Magistrates Court deals with mainly criminal, but some civil cases. All cases technically ‘start’ in Magistrates Courts but are bumped up to Crown Courts depending on their severity, more minor offences tend to start and end in the Magistrates Court. Typical offences include:

  • Driving offences
  • Assault and battery
  • Robbery
  • Theft

The Crown Court

The Crown Court is the other popular court in the UK and those who are tried there will be sat in front of a judge and a jury.

Although all cases start in the Magistrates Court, more serious offences are often automatically moved up straight away to Crown Court, these include:

  • GBH and ABH
  • Armed Robber
  • Manslaughter
  • Sexual Offences
  • Murder

The High Court

The High Court deals and hears with sensitive cases and cases that have been sent for appeal, they can deal with both criminal and civil cases. This court has the power to review the actions of individuals or organisations and deem whether they have acted legally and justly.

The Court of Appeal

Similarly to the High Court, the Court of Appeal deals with all criminal and civil cases that have been appealed in the UK. Sometimes the Court of Appeal will deal with appeals from tribunals such as the Employment Appeal Tribunal. In some cases, the appeal will go through the High Court before reaching the Court of Appeal, in others it will go straight to the Court of Appeal.

The UK Supreme Court

The UK Supreme Court deals with the most serious and sensitive offences in the UK, including terrorism. This court will also deal with appeals that have gone through the High Court and the Court of Appeal, but the most important cases they deal with are those in the public eye and are of general public importance.

If you’re due to visit court, get in touch with DPP Law and find out how they can help you moving forward with your case.