Crown Court
Established1 January 1972
JurisdictionEngland and Wales
Authorized byCourts Act 1971
Appeals toCourt of Appeal
(indictable offences)
High Court
(case stated)
Appeals fromMagistrates' courts
Crown Court and County Court in Oxford.
Crown Court in Reading

The Crown Court (Welsh: Llys y Goron) is the criminal court of first instance in England and Wales responsible for hearing all indictable offences, some either way offences and appeals of the decisions of magistrates' courts. It is one of three Senior Courts of England and Wales.[1]

The Crown Court sits in around 92 locations in England and Wales, divided into Circuits. When sitting in the City of London, it is known as the Central Criminal Court or "Old Bailey".[2]

The Crown Court is administered by HM Courts and Tribunals Service,[3] an executive agency of the Ministry of Justice.


England and Wales formerly used a system of courts of assize and quarter sessions for indictment trials at first instance.[4]

However, the Beeching Commission in 1969 recommended the replacement of the assize system, following the model of the 'crown courts' introduced by the Criminal Justice Administration Act 1956 (4 & 5 Eliz. 2. c. 34). in Liverpool and Manchester. [5]

As such, the current Crown Court was established on 1 January 1972 by the Courts Act 1971,[6] establishing a unitary trial court for the whole jurisdiction.

With the merger of the various court services into what is now HM Courts and Tribunals Service, the Crown Court frequently shares facilities with the County Court and magistrates' courts.


The Crown Court carries out four principal types of activity:

The average time from receipt by the Crown Court to completion was 177 days by the start of 2016.[7]

Appeals from magistrates' courts

See also: Challenges to decisions of England and Wales magistrates' courts

The Crown Court can hear appeals against conviction, sentence or both from those convicted in the magistrates' courts.

Under this procedure, the Crown Court has the power to confirm, reject or alter any part of a decision.[8] It may impose any sentence within the powers of a magistrate.

In 2015 the Crown Court heard 11,348 appeals and the average waiting time was 8.8 weeks in 2015.[7]

Sentencing committals from magistrates' courts

Defendants may be committed from a magistrates' court where its sentencing powers are inadequate.[9] This could be because:

Committals may also arise from breaches of the terms of a Community Order or a suspended custodial sentence.

In 2015, the Crown Court dealt with 30,802 cases for sentencing from the magistrates' courts.[7]

Appealing Crown Court decisions

Main article: Appeals from the Crown Court

See also: Courts of England and Wales

From Crown Court trials on indictment, appeal lies to the criminal division of the Court of Appeal and thence to the Supreme Court.[10]

In all other cases, appeal from the Crown Court lies by way of case stated to a Divisional Court of the High Court.



The judges who normally sit in the Crown Court are High Court judges, circuit judges and recorders.[11]

Allocation of cases is conducted according to directions given by the Lord Chief Justice.[12]


Higher rights of audience are required to speak in the Crown Court. This means that only barristers, solicitor advocates, and some chartered legal executives can represent clients.[13]

Solicitors may choose to attend hearings, but they are not able to speak directly.

Court staff

The court is primarily administered by the Clerk of Court, who wears a white collar/bib with bands and a black gown. They are assisted by the Court Usher, who is the only person that will move when the court is in session and will wear a gown over standard business dress.[14]

Court dress

Court dress is almost always worn, although wigs may be removed during exceptional circumstances when directed by the judge - for example, when children are testifying.

Courtroom layout

Simplified layout of a typical Crown Court courtroom

There are several physical elements to a Crown Court. From the position of the defendant:

Different courts may have different layouts. Some, often older courts may have very compact layouts - like Gloucester Crown Court - or some, often newer courts may be very spacious.

Some courts may have a circular layout, but the overall positioning of elements will remain the same.

See also


  1. ^ Wasik, Martin (2015), Wasik, Martin; Santatzoglou, Sotirios (eds.), "The Crown Court: Unified Structure or Local Justice?", The Management of Change in Criminal Justice: Who Knows Best?, London: Palgrave Macmillan UK, pp. 226–240, doi:10.1057/9781137462497_13, ISBN 978-1-137-46249-7, retrieved 8 July 2022
  2. ^ The Senior Courts Act 1981, section 8(3)
  3. ^ "About HM Courts & Tribunals Service". HM Courts & Tribunals Service. Retrieved 27 October 2016.
  4. ^ Jackson, R. M. (3 December 2015) [4th Edition, 1964]. The Machinery of Justice in England (1st paperback ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 102. ISBN 978-1107594784.
  5. ^ Ward, Richard; Akhtar, Amanda (26 May 2011). Walker & Walker's English Legal System (11th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 260. ISBN 978-0199588107.
  6. ^ Courts Act 1971 (Commencement) Order 1971 (SI 1971/1151)
  7. ^ a b c "Criminal court statistics (quarterly): January to March 2016". National Statistics, Ministry of Justice. 30 June 2016.
  8. ^ "Senior Courts Act",, The National Archives, 1981 c. 54
  9. ^ "Magistrates' Court". Courts and Tribunals Judiciary. Retrieved 27 October 2016.
  10. ^ "Courts of law". Citizens Advice. Archived from the original on 28 October 2016. Retrieved 27 October 2016.
  11. ^ Hirschel, David; Wakefield, William; Sasse, Scott (2007). Criminal justice in England and the United States (2nd ed.). Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers. p. 163. ISBN 9780763741129.
  12. ^ Slapper, Gary; Kelly, David (2016). The English Legal System (17th ed.). Abingdon: Routledge. p. 311. ISBN 9781317371533.
  13. ^ a b "The Crown Court". BSB Solicitors. Retrieved 17 July 2023.
  14. ^ "HMCTS who's who: Crown Court". GOV.UK. Retrieved 17 July 2023.
  15. ^ "HMCTS who's who: Crown Court". GOV.UK. Retrieved 17 July 2023.