WHAT IS COURT?
A tribunal presided over by a judge,
judges, or a magistrate in civil and
FACTS ABOUT COURTS.
• Over 95% of criminal cases are in magistrates courts.
• Magistrates are not lawyers but drawn “respected members” of the
• There is no jury in magistrates courts
• Most serious cases go to the crowns courts where there is a jury of the 12
members of the public
• The jury decides on guilt or innocence but the judge advices them on the
• The judge decides on the sentence (if convicted)
• Court proceedings are public expect for jury decisions or private briefings
FACTS ABOUT LAWYERS
• Solicitors are the main lawyers in magistrate courts. Most solicitors are
white middle class men often privately educated.
• Only barristers appear in the crown courts. Their backgrounds are even
narrower than the solicitors.
• Judges have the most exclusive backgrounds, almost all have been to
private schools and ox-bridge. They are usually aged over 50.
• Poorer defendants can get legal help via legal aid. Legal aid lawyers are
usually less experienced or less able. Wealthier defendants can pay for more
Argue that the legal system in countries like Britain is fair and equal. All
defendants are allowed a lawyer and lawyers are highly trained and
professional. The judge is completely impartial and advises the jury on the law
which is the same for everyone; Rich or poor, male or female and ethnicity. A
jury of 12 ordinary people decide if the defendant is guilty, the judge decides
the sentence based on the interests of society.
Jury may be all middle class and of people who are of higher status and
therefore means that its unfair judgement. Also judge is of higher authority
and therefore again shows that the conviction wont be fair. Lawyers are
middle class and therefore can result in not understanding the language code.
Courts mainly ruled by men and are therfore women are opressed.
They take a different perspective on courts. They are more interested in the
interaction in courts – how justice is „negotiated‟ or decided in the discussions
and debates between judges, lawyers and defendants.
METHODS IN CONTEXT
Courts are one of the easiest areas for a sociologist to conduct research. There
are many advantages and disadvantages of conducting research in a court.
+ Observer can study court processes as they unfold.
+ Observer can see and hear lawyers, witnesses and defendants in action.
+observer can make notes openly
+court is a public place, so no need for a covert observation, could just freely
enter and watch.
- Recordings and photos are not allowed during trials.
- Cannot observe private briefings of lawyers, or witnesses.
- Court proceedings may take a long time.
- cannot observe jury deliberations.
- Sensitive trials are held in secret.
This has been studied by internationalists like sudnow. This is where the
prosecution and defence negotiate to get a guilty plea to a lesser offence in
order to ensure a conviction and avoid a trail. E.g.: murder could be reduced
to manslaughter and rape to indecent assault. Providing a defendant guilty of
murder could be difficult. The defendant could be worried that if they
pleaded guilty of murder and then are convicted, they could get a heavier
sentence. Both sides may strike a deal where the defendant admits to
manslaughter- the prosecution gets a conviction and the defendant avoids a
Plea bargaining is a common tactic and occurs private away from the public.