The Crown Court carries out four principal types of activity: appeals from decisions of magistrates; sentencing of defendants committed from magistrates’ courts, jury trials, and the sentencing of those who are convicted in the Crown Court, either after trial or on pleading guilty. On average defendants in custody face an average waiting time of 13 weeks and 3 days. Those on bail experience greater delay having to wait 15 weeks and 4 days.
A Crown Court and a County Court may be located in the same building and use the same jurors. Since the establishment of Her Majesty's Courts Service in April 2005 there is an increased sharing of facilities between the Crown Court, county courts and magistrates court.
The clerk of the court, who sits facing the court (that is, the same way as the judge) has a smaller desk on which sits a telephone, used when communication is necessary with other parts of the court building (for example the jury assembly area or the cell complex).
Also in the area just in front of the judge's bench is the sound recordist. Proceedings will be recorded on a double deck cassette recorder with one tape or the other being changed at intervals. This record may be used if the case later goes to appeal.
Additionally there may be a court reporter who also records proceedings on a stenograph, by typing keys as the witnesses speak, using special shorthand. Alternatively, if there is no stenographer, a tapelogger or shorthand writer will be there to operate the tapes and ensure that a log of the proceedings is kept.
Facing the clerk will be the usher. If papers or other objects need to be passed around the court, for example notes from members of the jury, or evidence being shown to the jury, normally the usher will do this and will be the only person in the court to walk around while the court is in session.
Behind the usher, wearing black gowns and large white wigs and facing the judge, will be the prosecuting and defending barristers. The defending barrister will usually be nearest the jury. These days they will also be likely to have laptop computers in addition to files of papers relating to the case which will be on the desk in front of them. Unlike the judge who speaks sitting down, the barristers always stand to address the court.
Behind or alongside the barristers will sit the instructing solicitors, which in the case of the prosecution will either be a representative of the Crown Prosecution Service or police officers concerned with the case. The latter is more common with trials, whilst the former is more apparent in sentences, plea and case management hearings and other such cases.
At the back of the courtroom, behind the barristers, is a semi-partitioned area known as the "dock". This is where the defendant or defendants sit (now and then being asked to stand). A custody officer will be sitting in the dock near them.
Also at the back of the court, often adjacent to the dock, is a small area where the public can observe the proceedings. In some courts, notably the Old Bailey, this area is positioned above the defendant.
Taking of notes is usually forbidden in the public gallery. Members of the press must sit in the press bench, which is usually positioned alongside the prosecuting barrister. Ettiquette usually requires reporters to identify themselves to the usher before taking position here and starting to write.
Alongside the defending barrister is the jury box. This is where the jury watch the case from. They will be called to it from the jury waiting area (benches next to it) to be sworn in. Once sworn they always sit in the same seat throughout the trial. If proceedings (such as legal argument about the admissibility of evidence) take place which they are not supposed to see occur, the usher will escort them into a room just outside the courtroom (probably behind the dock). Only jurors and ushers ever enter this room.
Opposite the jury box is the witness box. Witnesses stand facing the jury and give their evidence so the jury can watch their demeanor while giving it, which might help them decide if the witness is being truthful.
When the judge sends the jury to consider their verdict, the usher escorts them to a small suite consisting of a large table, 12 chairs, WCs, paper and pencils, a button to call the usher with and prominent notices about not revealing deliberations to anyone else. The usher withdraws, and when the jury have arrived at a verdict, they push the button.
During deliberations only limited contact is permitted with the outside world, always via the usher. The jury will be permitted only (a) to call for refreshments, (b) to pass a note to the judge, perhaps asking for further guidance, or (c) to announce that they have reached a verdict. The judge may decide to recall them to the court to address them again at any time.
|North Eastern||Northumberland, Durham, Yorkshire|
|Northern||Cumberland, Westmorland, Lancashire, also north-west Derbyshire and northern Cheshire|
|Midland||Staffordshire, Shropshire, Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Warwickshire, Leicestershire, Rutland, Northamptonshire, most of Derbyshire, part of Buckinghamshire, most of Oxfordshire, part of Berkshire|
|South Eastern||Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Isle of Ely, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Essex, most of Buckinghamshire, part of Oxfordshire, most of Berkshire, Greater London, Surrey, Sussex, Kent|
|Wales and Chester||Wales, and most of Cheshire|
|Western||Gloucestershire, part of Berkshire, Bristol, Wiltshire, Hampshire, Dorset, Somerset, Devon and Cornwall|