Who's who in court
There are lots of different people that work for the court and it can be confusing about who does what.
It can be helpful to know who will be at court and what their job is, so you know what to expect when you give your evidence.
We have explained the main roles of court official below, but it’s ok to ask your witness supporter on the day to explain who is who and introduce you.
Crown court judge
The judge is in charge of the whole process and makes sure that the trial is fair. The judge is responsible for deciding the sentence, which is the legal name for the punishment for the crime if the defendant, who is the person accused of the crime, is found guilty.
In a crown court you have one judge who sits at the front of the court.
The jury is made up of 12 members of the public. After listening to all the evidence during the trial they make a decision on whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty. Only trials in Crown Court have a jury.
Magistrates and district judges
Magistrates, also called Justices of the peace, are usually people who live locally. There are normally three magistrates who are supported by a legally trained advisor. Sometimes cases are tried by one magistrate, who is a lawyer and is referred to as a district judge.
In a youth court, youth courts are held at magistrate’s courts, there will be a district judge, who acts as chairperson, and is assisted by two magistrates. The judge and the magistrates hear the evidence and make a judgment.
Prosecution and defence
The prosecution is the name for the lawyers (both barristers and solicitors) who prepare and prosecute the case. In court they may be called Crown Prosecutors or Crown Advocates, and they are present in both the Crown Court and magistrates' courts.
The barristers and solicitors who argue in court for the defendant – the person accused of the crime – are called the defence.
Ushers are responsible for preparing the courtroom, checking that witnesses, defendants and lawyers are present, calling defendants and witnesses into court and will explain when and how you need to say your oath. In a Crown Court ‘sworn ushers’ are also responsible for escorting the jury to and from the courtroom, being on duty outside the jury room and taking messages between the jury and the judge.
Security officers are there to keep everyone safe in the courtroom. They control the entrances to the court to make sure only the people allowed in the court come in. They will also complete security searches of bags, coats and pockets to make sure that nobody brings in items that are not allowed.
If anyone gets angry or violent in court, security will be called to deal with the matter.