Comparison Of U.K. And U.S. Justice System Essay

Length: 5 pages Sources: 5 Subject: Business - Law Type: Essay Paper: #30663428 Related Topics: Comparative, Comparison, Comparative Analysis, Child Custody
Excerpt from Essay :

¶ … Justice Systems

Britain's legal institutions have served long as American law's foundations. In framing American Federal Constitution, framers exaggerated British ideas of power separation in the government, drawing on Parliament enactments. For several years following the Revolution, U.S. courts looked to England's common laws for its rules of judgment. In intervening decades, English and American judges haven't been neglectful of their common custom- looking often to the other nation's legal doctrine development as a rich source of comparative study. This legal and spiritual kinship has, over time, been fostered by interchanges between England and America (Kaufman, 1980).

It follows that a profound commonality exists between the legal systems of Great Britain and America. America's legal structure, particularly what is referred to as the 'Common Law', has descended directly from the courts of England, mainly because of once being a British colony. Common law (or case law as it is alternatively called) does not arise from governmental authority, but stems from decisions on cases. If a law's definition is decided upon by a court, this definition is used as a standard in other courts for deciding cases (Kaufman, 1980; Oshundeyi, 2011).

One of the visible differences in British and American legal structures is that, in Britain, lawyers are not essentially called such. Lawyers in the U.S. can deal with any and every criminal and civil issue; while in Britain, most of the attorneys are either "Barristers" or "Solicitors" (Oshundeyi, 2011; Mazzacuva, 2014). The United Kingdom, which follows English legal structure, is among the three nations of the world which have divided their lawyers into barristers and solicitors. Being a barrister or solicitor in UK requires specific and different customs, traditions and training. Entering the profession of barristers requires prolonged, intensive dedication as well as extensive academic study for attaining the expert knowledge that the profession necessitates. Mostly, society refers to barristers as Court Advocates, as often, their work revolves around attending court and having competent client representation. Most barristers focus on advocacy; there are, however, some who are specialized in other law-related fields (e.g. company law, tax law, etc.), who seldom show up at court (OshundeyI, 2011).

Solicitors can handle a majority of legal issues, provide counsel, draft documents, and also represent clients in case of minor criminal problems. They are empowered with the authority of directly acting for clients. On the contrary, barristers are specialists in advocacy of trials and act for defendant/litigant in the High Court. They build the case, as well as argue before the jury and judges; however, they are not entitled to act on behalf of clients without the consent of the solicitor. They will, often, work in collaboration during crucial cases, where legal documents are managed, evidences prepared, and out-of-court negotiations during trial conducted by the solicitor (Oshundeyi, 2011; Parpworth, 2010).

In the U.S., rules that govern the criminal proceedings system are known. Prosecuting attorneys initiate every prosecution; these attorneys are autonomous, and free of police and the courts. Contrary to the American system's general procedural simplicity, some regulations are confusing, or more complex, as compared to those that govern British criminal proceedings' initiation. Private prosecution forms the underlying concept behind the British structure. Therefore, with a few qualifications, anybody in Britain can initiate a criminal suit against a suspected offender. However, this does not imply that English court dockets are packed with these kinds of prosecutions. The situation is quite the reverse; an average Briton is normally content with just reporting an alleged criminal offense to police, and leaving them to deal with the matter (Kaufman, 1980; Parpworth, 2010).

The prosecutor, in the U.S., is the one who bridges the chasm between the courts and police, exercising his autonomous judgment with regards to the need for instituting criminal proceedings for some particular case. The prosecutor plays a criminal case. Without criticizing British policemen's dedication, one should acknowledge that their participation in criminal inquiries prevents their unbiased evaluation of many considerations against and for instituting criminal acts. The U.S. prosecutorial system, admittedly, might not be the perfect example for the British to follow. Alternatives that are worth trying include adopting Scotland's Procurator Fiscal system, or extending the responsibilities of the Public Prosecutions director. However, exploring and participating in the Anglo-American Interchange, reveals that English police must bear a smaller proportion of the load to make decisions in prosecuting suspected criminals (Kaufman, 1980; Parpworth, 2010; Oshundeyi, 2011).

UK Court System

In both Britain and America, criminal cases are initiated with arrests. The subsequent step, in America, is a hearing before the jury, wherein the jury judges decides whether or not sufficient evidence is present for issuance of an indictment (i.e. formal criminal accusation), through which the case can move forward to a complete trial (Parpworth, 2010). The right to be heard by a grand jury, in most cases, is assured by the U.S. constitution's Fifth Amendment. Meanwhile in England, after arrest, evidence is presented by the Crown Prosecution Service (which is the English equivalent of District Attorney) before the Magistrates' Court; here a district judge or a 3-judge panel issues the necessary indictment (Parpworth, 2010; OSHUNDEYI, 2011).

The American criminal justice system provides corporations, engaged in criminal investigations or proceedings, with alternative resolutions, namely Non-Prosecution Agreements (NPAs) and Deferred Prosecution Agreements (DPAs). The latter is, specifically, an agreement between a target corporation and government authority, by which the government agrees to lay off a criminal indictment, after some set time, if obligations are fulfilled by the corporation. No tradition exists, in the legal system in UK, of deferring prosecutions; also, no hook exists in the present legislation, governing courts' or prosecutors' conduct, which would have made allowances for DPAs. Therefore, a legal regime was required for this field. The Crime and Courts Act 2013, section 45 and Schedule 17, set the regime now (Mazzacuva, 2014).

America has 2 legal systems: state courts and federal courts. The dominant feature of U.S. courts is pluralism; all American states have their own independent legal systems. There are a total of 17000 local and state courts, handling over 120 million cases per year. Apart from the Supreme Court, America has 13 American Courts of Appeal and 94 federal district courts (The American Criminal Justice System, n.d).

In Wales and England, the 1836 Prisoners' Counsel Act accorded criminal defendants the right to attorney, as well as guaranteed the right to counsel in felony cases, more than a century before the right was guaranteed to Americans by the Gideon v. Wainwright decision (Parpworth, 2010). Prior to this, attorneys were only permitted if defendants were charged with treason. The Legal Services Commission offers free legal assistance; the Community Legal Service provides legal assistance in case of civil matters, while the Criminal Defense Service does the same for criminal cases. A majority of these attorneys belong to private barrister and solicitor firms assigned for representing defendants (Mazzacuva, 2014; The American Criminal Justice System, n.d).

Once the indictment is handed down by the magistrates or judge, the Crown Court takes up the case for trial by a panel of judges, although in some instances, jurisdiction may be retained by a Magistrates Court over summary offenses. In Britain, trial by a jury dates back to the times of the Magna Carta; the Crown Court's jury can be anywhere between 9 and 12 judges. Eligible jurors constitute registered voters between the ages of 18 and 70, who have resided 5 years in the UK, from age 13 onwards, are mentally able, and not ineligible for any other reasons (Oshundeyi, 2011; Mazzacuva, 2014).

Unlike America, where Defense and Prosecution attorneys select members of the jury and dismiss those they find voir dire or unfavorable, in Wales and England, the Clerk of Court randomly selects 12 names, or draws cards bearing jurors' names, till the jury is filled. Then, the trial proceeds in a similar way to U.S. trials, with the jury rendering one of many verdict options: Not Guilty, Guilty, Special Verdict, or Guilty of a Lesser Violation. With special verdicts, case facts are decided by the jury; however, the judge is left in charge of convicting or acquitting the accused, on the basis of law (Kaufman, 1980).

Most of the civil cases are handled by the High Court, including financial cases in the High Court's Chancery Division (corporate wrap-up, contested wills, bankruptcy, trusts, etc.) and Family Law problems in its Family Division (alimony, child custody, divorce etc.). The same number of jurors constitutes the jury in both civil and criminal cases. Right to trial by jury, in civil cases, is present for the following actions: Fraud, Slander, Libel, False Imprisonment, Breach of Promise to Marriage, Malicious Prosecution, and Seduction (only for women- being talked…

Sources Used in Documents:


Kaufman, I.R. (1980). Criminal Procedure in England and the United States: Comparisons in Initiating Prosecutions. Fordham Law Review, Vol. 49, Is. 1, Article 8

Mazzacuva, F. (2014). Justifications and Purposes of Negotiated Justice for Corporate Offenders: Deferred and Non-Prosecution Agreements in the UK and U.S. systems of Criminal Justice. Journal Of Criminal Law, 78(3), 249-262. doi:10.1350/jcla.2014.78.3.921

Oshundeyi, M. (2011). The English Judicial System: Process Of Becoming Legal Professionals. Ankara Bar Review, 4(1), 57-70.

Parpworth, N. (2010). Constitutional and Administrative Law, oxford university press, New York.

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