Criminal law regulates how crimes are investigated, and how people are charged, tried, and punished for the crimes they commit. Crimes can be categorised according to how serious they are—for instance, ranging from assault to manslaughter to murder. Another way to categorise crimes is according to who or what is the victim of the crime. For instance, crimes can be committed against a person, against society, or against justice itself, as in the case of perjury.
Trial and Conviction
When a crime is committed the police work to determine the perpetrator. Once someone has been charged with the crime, it’s the job of the court system to schedule a hearing. At the hearing, the defendant can plead guilty and be sentenced, or can plead not guilty and go to trial instead. At trial, the defendant is represented by a barrister, or sometimes a solicitor, who argues the case on their behalf. The defendant and the Crown present evidence for their respective cases, and work to challenge the evidence provided by the opposing counsel.
Verdict, Sentencing, and Appeals
In a criminal trial, the burden lies on the prosecution to show that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This means that the judge or jury who is deciding the case must be sure that the defendant committed the crime.
Once a judge or jury has come to a decision and handed down their verdict, the defendant is free to go if they are found to be innocent. If the defendant is found guilty, what happens next depends on the nature of the crime on trial. In some cases, the judge may hand down a sentence immediately after the verdict has been read. In more complex or serious cases, they might decide to hold the sentencing at a later date.
If the defendant is unhappy with the verdict they can apply for permission to appeal, in which case the case and verdict are reviewed. If there is found to be grounds for an appeal a new hearing is held to allow the defendant to present their case. If they win the appeal the verdict may be overturned, or the sentence may be reduced.
Criminal Law Resources
Shafi Solicitors - criminal law solicitor based in Manchester in the UK specialising in serious crime, fraud and business related crime.
If any students wish to contribute to this section or add relevant subsections related to criminal law please do so through the university portal by updating Resource No.00032.