Who's Who at Court

court gavel


If you have never been in contact with the judicial system before and are charged with an offence, facing a court appearance will inevitably be nerve-racking. However, it will help if you find expert barristers in the Ipswich and Suffolk area who have a detailed knowledge of the local courts and can advise you on what to expect.

Here we look at some of the main officials you will see when you attend a Crown or Magistrates’ Court and describe what their roles are.

Crown Court Judge – The judge sits at the front of the court and wears a wig, as the barristers appearing in Crown Court also do. This traditional headdress has been worn by the judiciary for centuries. All judges are qualified and experienced lawyers. It is the role of the judge to oversee the whole proceedings, ensuring that the trial is fair. He/she will also decide the sentence if the defendant either pleads guilty or is found guilty at the end of a trial.

Court Clerk or Legal Advisor – The Crown Court clerk sits at the front of the court and is in charge of all the paperwork which may need to be referred to in the course of a case. In Magistrates’ Court, the Legal Advisor performs a similar role and also has the job of taking notes. In Crown Court, digital recording equipment has replaced the former stenographers.

Crown Court Jury – A jury consists of 12 members, who have the role of deciding a verdict in Crown Court cases, with the judge then deciding the sentence. Jurors have to listen to all the evidence before going into the deliberation room to consider their verdict. Initially they will try to reach a unanimous verdict, but if this isn’t possible the judge may ask them to see if they can instead reach a majority verdict, with at least 10 agreeing. There are various safeguards to ensure they decide the case fairly, such as not being allowed to discuss details of the trial with family and friends or research cases on the internet.

Magistrates and District Judges – Unlike judges, magistrates are volunteers and are usually not lawyers. They are also sometimes known as Justices of the Peace or JPs. Most Magistrates’ Court cases are presided over by three magistrates, with legal support. There are no juries in this type of courtroom, so if there is a trial the magistrates decide on the facts of the case, as well as sentencing. District Judges also sometimes sit at Magistrates’ Courts and hear more complex cases alone.

Prosecution Lawyers – Most cases in UK criminal courts are prosecuted by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). However, sometimes prosecutions are also brought by other agencies, such as the Health and Safety Executive and the Environment Agency. The CPS employs a number of lawyers, including both barristers and solicitors. They can appear in both the Crown and Magistrates Courts, although barristers usually prosecute in Crown Court.

Defence Lawyers Both barristers and solicitors can act as defence lawyers in court. Barristers traditionally defended people in Crown Court, but now often appear in Magistrates’ Court as well. If you are looking for a barrister to defend you, there are advantages to choosing a direct access barrister. From speaking to them before the case, you will know that it will be somebody you get on with. Dealing with them direct, rather than through a solicitor, will also mean there is greater continuity and that you pay only one set of fees.

Ushers – Ushers make sure that everyone is present and call through the defendants and witnesses as they are needed. As a defendant, you need to make sure you are there in good time, because you won’t be given an exact starting time for your case. Ushers also have to ensure the courtroom is properly prepared before a case.

Security Guards – Security staff check everyone at the door in Crown Court and there are also security officers at Magistrates’ Court. Their role involves meeting people at the door and ensuring the safety and security of the court. Some court security officers are employed by private companies.

If you need representation by barristers in Ipswich, Marcus Croskell has extensive knowledge of courts in the area. He frequently appears at both Magistrates’ and Crown Courts, representing people from the Woodbridge and Suffolk areas and further afield in East Anglia. He specialises in motoring offences as well as being a criminal defence lawyer. You can send an email for a free initial consultation or call 0843 886 2603