In the Crown Court, the case proceeds in front of a jury. The jury are the tribunal of fact and the Judge is the tribunal of law. This means that the Judge will decide and explain how the law should be applied. The jury will decide which facts are proven.
Rule 25.5 of the Criminal Procedure Rules sets out the procedure to be followed if a defendant who has pleaded guilty wants to change his plea to guilty.
The trial procedure in the Crown Court is similar to the Magistrates Court but with some significant differences.
- Firstly, a jury will be sworn. The jury will be comprised of 12 people between the ages of 18 and 75 whose names are on the electoral roll for particular area.
- The prosecutor will then give an opening speech to the jury. They will explain what the case is about and what evidence they intend to call.
- Each prosecution witness will then be called to give evidence,
- Points of law may arise in the course of the prosecution case; in which case the Judge could call a ‘voir dire’ as they do in the Magistrates’ Court.
- At the conclusion of the prosecution case, the defence can make a submission of no case to answer.
- Assuming the submission fails, or is not made, then the trial will proceed to the defence case. Again, the defendant is likely to be called first followed by any subsequent witnesses that he intends to rely on.
- The prosecution and the defence will then make closing speeches to the jury.
- The Judge will then sum up the case. The summing up will normally be broken down into a summary of the relevant law followed by a summary of the facts.
- The jury will then retire to consider their verdicts. Deliberations are private. The jury must decide their verdict unanimously to begin with. If they are unable to, they can be directed to deliver a majority verdict as long as 2 hours and 1o minutes has elapsed. If any jurors have been discharged in the course of the trial then a verdict can be returned of 10:1 or if there were only 10 jurors then the verdict can be of 9:1. Where there are only 9 jurors remaining on a jury then only a unanimous verdict can be entered.
- If the jury cannot reach a verdict in the required time then the jury will be discharged. This results in a ‘hung jury’. The prosecution can then decide whether or not to apply for a retrial.
- If the defendant is found guilty, then the Judge may proceed to sentence immediately. Alternatively, he could adjourn for the defendant to be sentenced another day.