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The legal system in England and Wales

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Reading 1

· Read and translate the following text about the legal system in England and Wales and in the USA. Pay special attention to the words in bold type.

· Compare the legal systems in England and Wales and the USA. Name the differences and similiarities.

· Make a list of at least 15 questions based on the text. The questions should be detailed and require full answers. Ask your groupmates to answer them and answer their questions in your turn.

· Use the information from the text, the ‘Follow Up’ below it, and Vocabulary Extension I to prepare a speech about the legal system in the UK or the US.

When the police believe that somebody hascommitted a crime,they arrest that person and the case is then heard in court and treated as a criminal case.The courts also deal with civil cases, where no crime has been committed, such as cases of divorce or disputes over property.

Less serious criminal and civil cases are dealt with in the Magistrates' Courts, where there is no jury but a case is usually heard by two or three magistrates. Most magistrates, also known as Justices of the Peace (JPs), work part-time and are not paid. They are given some training but do not need legal qualifications. A clerk of the court advises them on the law. When they have heard a case, the magistrates reach a verdict and where necessary decide what the punishment should be.

Magistrates also decide what should happen to somebody between the time they are arrested and the time when the case is heard in court. They may grant bail (allow the person to be free until the trial, if a sum of money is paid) or remand her or him in custody (keep the person in prison until the trial).

More serious cases are heard by judges in the crown courts (for criminal cases) or the county courts (for civil cases). In civil cases, and in cases where the defendant has pleaded guilty, the judge sits alone, without a jury, and after hearing the case, makes a decision, or judgement. If the person accused of a crime pleads not guilty, he or she is tried before a jury. When the evidence has been heard, the judge goes over the facts of the case (the summing-­up) and explains the law to the jury. If they find the accused guilty, the judge passes sentence, that is, decides what the punishment should be.

Solicitors are lawyers who do legal business for individuals and companies and also act as advocates, representing clients in court.

Barristersused to be the only lawyers allowed to appear as advocates in the higher courts. One advocate (the Counsel for the Prosecution) tries to prove in court that the accused committed the crime. The advocate representing the defendant (the Counsel for the Defence) tries to show that he or she is innocent. They call witnesses and question them about the facts of the case.

The juryin England and Wales is made up of twelve ordinary people aged between 18 and 65. When they have heard the evidence and the judge's summing-up, they retire to a special room to decide whether to return a verdict of guilty or not guilty. If they all agree, they have reached a unanimous verdict. If no more than two people dis­agree, the judge may ask for a majority verdict. If the accused is found guilty, he or she has the right to appeal and ask for the case to be heard by a higher court.


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