Main Functions and Parties


Civil Cases

The main function of the trial is for the judge to hear the evidence and decide on the claim.

The parties may have agreed some relevant facts or preliminary issues prior to trial.

These issues may concern the law to be applied or the terms of the judgment to be given, but usually written and oral evidence will be given by the parties and their witnesses and live witnesses may be cross-examined.

Factual and expert witnesses are generally called to give evidence at trial. Their written statements tend to stand as evidence-in-chief, so they do not need to provide oral evidence on the matters contained in their witness statements.


Criminal Cases

The function of the trial is for the Crown to present and prove their case and for the defence to argue for an acquittal or conviction on a lesser charge.

Where the defendant enters a guilty/no contest plea the judge is informed in advance.

Assuming that the judge accepts the plea he or she hears the plea in open court so that it forms part of the record. (The defendant is then sentenced.)

The judge plays an active role in the trial, controlling the way the case is conducted.

In both the Crown Court and Magistrates' Court, advocates prosecute the case on behalf of the Crown.

The defendant has his or her own legal representative in court to defend him or her against the charges.