The intermediate appellate tribunal is the Court of Appeal. The Master of the Rolls and fourteen Lords Justices constitute this court. The Lord Chief Justice, who presides over the Queen's Bench Division of the High Court, normally sits when criminal appeals are tried. The appointments are for life, subject to mandatory retirement at age 75. The Court of Appeal has two divisions - Civil and Criminal.
The Civil Division hears appeals from the High Court as well as from county courts and a few more specialized courts.
The Criminal Division of the Court of Appeal is competent to deal with appeals against decisions of the first instance made by the Crown Court. Criminal appeals are usually heard by three judges. The Lord Chief Justice frequently presides in the Criminal Division.
In the Civil Division senior Lord Justice (or the Master of the Rolls) normally presides over the other two Lords Justices. The decisions are based on documents supplemented by the arguments of barristers.
Appeals against decisions of the Court of Appeal can be lodged with the House of Lords. The House of Lords, in addition to being a part of the legislature, is the highest court in the land. The judges of the House of Lords are Lords of Appeal in Ordinary. They are ten in number. The president of the House of Lords as a court is the Lord Chancellor. So, he is the highest judge in the kingdom.
The other Law Lords are judges from English courts or from Scottish or Northern Irish judiciary. Five Lords of Appeal in Ordinary normally deal with any particular case. They sit in a small room in Westminster Palace. The Lords express their opinion on the case and vote at hand. A person accused of an offence is sure of a fair and open trial, and enjoys good protection against the possibility of an unfair decision. Justice, both civil and criminal, operates with reasonable speed, and the excellent system of free legal aid and advice to people with low income is of great benefit.
Magistrates 'Courts are the people's courts, formerly known as police courts, the lowest tier in the criminal justice system. There are around 28,000 lay magistrates sitting in the 700 or so courts in England and Wales (the system is different in Scotland and Northern Ireland). They deal with more than two million cases a year, and perform a variety of other functions as well.
Their main job is to deliver 'summary justice' to people charged with less serious crimes (grave offences are dealt with at the Crown Court).
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