To what extent can the structure and processes of criminal justice, be said to represent a system?
Structure and processes of criminal justice are very complex. In order to deal appropriately with potential or existing criminal activity different procedures and processes are involved. In this essay, I will explain the criminal justice system to the extent of its structure and processes, creating a mental image to show how the criminal justice system is working and represented.
Criminal justice; can be described as the study of the theories and practices of the law courts, the police as well as the institutions of rehabilitation.
Criminal justice can also be defined as the process used by states or governments through legislation, organisation, and practice geared towards the maintenance of control within human societies(social control), the prevention and control of violent behaviours or crime, the prosecution, sanctioning or imprisonment of those who are involved in crime(law violators).
When dealing with accused persons or groups of persons through the system of criminal justice the government is usually charged with the responsibility of working within the laid down framework of the constitution through the laws that are set up to protect human rights.
Criminal justice is a multi disciplinary field that encompasses the process of reviews, discussions, relationships and processes associated with the criminal justice system.
In addition to this, criminal justice does also examine the legal framework or system within the broad psychological and socio-political framework and goes ahead to explore how this so said framework influence the actions, activities and actors of the criminal justice system.
HISTORY OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE:
The system of criminal justice has been an evolving system since ancient times. Within this process, new ways of finding evidence, sentencing and punishment have developed over time. Likewise, some methods that were in use before for punishing and or convicting have been abandoned or rendered un-ethical. These changes have been pre-eminence by factors like increasing political reforms worldwide. In addition, other social, economic and political factors have also prompted these changes. Some of these factors include changing cultures and customs, modernisation or the changes brought about by economic advancement as well as changing political systems.
THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM OF ENGLAND AND WALES:
The criminal justice system of England and Wales is one of the most influential departments of the public service. Within its operations the criminal justice system is governed through some specialised agencies including the ‘national offender management service’ and the department of corrections-which administers judgement on guilty persons, the law courts-which try and impose judgement on law breakers, ‘the crown prosecution service’, and the police service- which arrest those involved in criminal activities.
Within the country the work of these agencies are supervised by three departments of the government, which are The Attorney Generals Office, The Ministry of Justice, and The Home Office.
These agencies and departments work together in a symbiotic manner in order to achieve the following objectives geared towards improving the system of criminal justice.
The prevention and detection of criminal activities:
Provide victims of crime as well as the witnesses involved in legal procedures moral and psychological support.
The punishment and the provision of rehabilitation facilities to crime offenders
In order to achieve their objectives the assistance of the Local Criminal Justice Boards is necessary. The local criminal justice boards usually prioritise areas for reducing crime within the different regions by administering regional justice. The local criminal justice boards are usually charged with the following de-regulated tasks:
Improving without discrimination, the process of delivery of justice to all persons.
The local criminal justice boards are also charged with the task of improving the quality of service provided to witnesses and victims of criminal actions.
These boards are also charged with the role of improving and advancing the level of public confidence in the system of criminal justice.
The existing legal system in England and Wales is usually Adversarial in all law courts. This application is applied even in the juvenile courts. According to this system, the side of prosecution is required by law to disclose all relevant information pertaining to a case to the defence. This requirement however on the part of the defence is not existent.
In England and Wales, there are many ways of classifying crime. In most cases, the classification of crimes is usually based on the seriousness or the gravity of the crime. In addition, the classification may be based on the procedure used in bringing the case to trial or before a judge. For example in a magistrate’s court, a case may only be brought forward through a system of indictment. In addition, the case may be classified according to the availability of what is called the sanction of imprisonment. A crime may also be classified in terms of the department of home office’s standard list of serious crimes.
The current age of criminal responsibility in both England and Wales is ten. Regardless of this fact, any person between the age of ten and seventeen is usually brought to a youth court when they are charged with a criminal offence. Additionally sanctions available to the youth courts are inherently more restricted as compared to the sanctions imposed in adult courts. The major difference between the two is that while an adult charged in an adult court will have to bear the full cost of the sanction, a child or a person charged in a youth court can be imposed a fine which the parents are supposed to pay. In addition, a person under the age of 18 may be imposed supervision or attendance centre orders.
The structure and processes of the criminal justice in England and Wales can be said to constitute a system since every aspect of the system of the criminal justice is clearly documented and all actions pertaining to a trial are well known.
Through this system, if the police (law enforcement) wish to bring a person to trial or prosecution then they are supposed to charge the defendant and hand the necessary case papers to The Crown Prosecution Service.
The Crown Prosecution Service is supposed to conduct a review of the evidence submitted and makes an informed decision of whether there is need to prosecute or not. If the evidence provided is not viewed as sufficient to prosecute then The Crown Prosecution Service may fail to prosecute.
Despite all of these systems, the accused is also provided some rights. Among these rights, include the right to legal advice. The accused is also entitled to legal assistance when he/she is facing a murder charge. Additionally, if the prosecution appeals to the House of Lords, the defendant can be granted legal aid.
Within the judicial system, an accused is supposed to be forwarded to a court of first instance (the magistrate’s courts). Once a case is brought to the magistrate’s court, the court has to decide whether the case is suitable to be tried in that court and or whether the warring parties has consented to the case being tried in the court.
The system of criminal justice is one of the most specialized within England and Wales. Despite its drawbacks, the system has with stood the test of time and it will most probably advance with the progression of globalisation.
Andrew Ashworth (2005), Sentencing and Criminal Justice, Cambridge University
This book by Andrew Ashworth examines the key issues involved in the process of sentencing policy and practice. It provides a current account of the legislation within the U K.
David M. Downes (1988) Contrasts in Tolerance: Post-War Penal Policy in the Netherlands and England and Wales, Oxford University Press, oxford.
Elspeth Attwooll (1995), Criminal Justice: United Kingdom Association for Legal and Social Philosophy: Twentieth Annual …, Franz Steiner, U.K.
Garland David (2002), “Of Crimes and Criminals”, The Oxford Handbook of Criminology, 3rd edition. Oxford University Press, oxford.