Who is who?
Quite often, if your case ends up in court, you can feel just as vulnerable and scared, as you may not understand what is going on or who is who. I hope this explains a little bit the different roles of people in a court case.
In the UK a lawyer is somebody with a legal qualification. It is used of solicitors, barristers and chartered legal executives, all of whom can act as your lawyer. However, not all lawyers can represent you in the courtroom.
Certain solicitors, with appropriate higher qualifications, can represent you in the courtroom, but usually they are the lawyers you will deal with first. They will prepare your case, interview people, and instruct a barrister to represent you in the courtroom. They are the initial person you have meetings with, the person who writes to the other side’s solicitor and builds up the case and evidence.
This is the person who usually represents you in the courtroom. The solicitor passes on all the information, and the barrister prepares it all for the court case, and stands up and speaks on your behalf. They are sometimes also called an ‘Advocate’.
The Chartered Legal Executive
These are specialist lawyers with legal rights to prepare your case like a solicitor. In some cases they can represent you in the courtroom.
Advocates are those who take up your case in a courtroom and speak on your behalf. This is a general term for lawyers who act in this way. Although most advocates are barristers, they can be solicitors and chartered legal executives.
This is the person who hears your case. In civil proceedings they will be the one who, after hearing the evidence from both sides, will decide the outcome of the case. In criminal proceedings, they direct the jury about the law that is applicable in the case, making the legal decisions. If a verdict of guilt is reached, the judge will decide on the appropriate sentence, fine or other punishment.
A jury is used in criminal proceedings, and is normally made up of 12 randomly selected people who listen to the arguments and weigh up the evidence. They then have time to discuss the evidence, decide on the facts of the case, and come back with a verdict of guilty or not guilty. The reason we have a jury is to uphold our ‘right to be tried by our peers’. Our peers means people like us, not specialists in the law.
During criminal proceedings this is the term used to describe the person/people bringing the charges to the court. (Usually the CPS – Crown Prosecution Service – acting on behalf of society)
The Defendant: During criminal proceedings this is the term used to describe the person being accused of the crime. There can be several defendants.
During civil proceedings (not criminal) this term is used to describe the person/people bringing the claim to court.
During civil proceedings (not criminal) this term is used to describe the individual ‘responding’ to the accusation against them.