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Criminal Offences Classification

In England, criminal cases are split up into categories. The nature and seriousness of the offence will determine which part of the Courts system the case is heard in.

This page outlines the basics of the classification and Courts system.

Magistrates Court & Crown Court

The Magistrates Court is generally the Court that people first have to go to when they are facing a criminal case.

As a general rule the Magistrates Court will deal with less serious offences and they will refer more serious offences to the Crown Court.

Examples of the type of offences that will only be dealt with by the Crown Court include murder, robbery and most sexual offences.

Offences such as assault may be tried in either the Magistrates or the Crown Court and the decision where to hear the case will depend on the seriousness of the crime in question.

Categories of Criminal Offence


Summary only offences

These offences will only be dealt with by the Magistrates Court and are generally less serious in nature. Examples of summary offences are less serious assault such as common assault or less serious motoring offences.

Either way offences

These are mid level offences which are more serious than summary only offences but less serious than indictable only offences. They include such offences as theft, burglary and more serious assaults such as actual bodily harm (ABH).

With either way offences, Magistrates have to decide they have sufficient sentencing powers to deal with the case if found guilty (The Magistrates Court can only give a maximum of 12 months in prison). If they decide that their powers are sufficient then the accused will have the choice of having trial in the Magistrates Court or in front of a jury in the Crown Court.

Indictable only offences

Indictable only offences are more serious offences including murder, conspiracy and sexual offences such as rape.

It is critical that you have effective representation when dealing with the Police or going to Court. Please contact me for more information.

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