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If the defence in criminal proceedings are of the view that the prosecution have failed to raise a case to answer, they may make a submission that there is "no case to answer". This will take place at the halfway point in a trial (i.e. between the prosecution case and defence case).
In the Crown Court, a submission that there is no case to answer will be heard by a judge in the absence of the jury. Counsel for the defence will make his/her submissions first of all and then the counsel for the prosecution will have a chance to respond. The submissions should address whether evidence was adduced in relation to each required element of the offence and whether the evidence was reliable enough for a jury to convict on.
The test for the judge to consider is whether, taking the prosecution's case at its highest, a properly directed jury could not properly convict on it. If the judge finds that this is the case then he/she should direct the jury to acquit the defendant. If the judge finds that there is a case to answer then the trial will continue and the jury will hear the defence case before then making a determination on the evidence themselves.
A half-time ruling in favour of the defendant is a "terminating ruling" that can be appealed by the prosecution to the Court of Appeal.
A submission of "no case to answer" may also be made halfway through a magistrates' court trial where:-
- The prosecution have failed to put forward evidence to prove an essential element of the alleged offence; or
- The evidence adduced has been so unreliable or discredited that no reasonable tribunal could safely convict on it.
If such an application is successful the case will be dismissed.
Harassment is a summary-only offence that is established if a defendant pursues a "course of conduct" that:-
- Constitutes harassment of another; and
- He/she ought to know that it would constitute harassment
"Course of conduct" means a series of events (such as repeated nuisance phone calls). A course of conduct may consist of as few as two instances.
It is a defence to show that the conduct was in compliance with a rule of law/enactment, for the purposes of detecting crime or was reasonable in the circumstances.
The offence of harassment can, in the most extreme circumstances, result in a custodial sentence being passed.
If the course of conduct causes another to fear, on at least two occasions, that violence will be used against him/her will be guilty of an aggravated offence of harassment if he/she knows or ought to know that his course of conduct will cause the other so to fear on each of those occasions. Unlike basic harassment, this aggravated form is an either-way offence and carries a higher maximum custodial sentence.
In addition to any sentence passed, the court may impose a restraining order, prohibiting the defendant from coming into contact with the complainant. Controversially, the court can now also make such an order upon a defendant's acquittal if it deems it necessary. Breach of such an order can constitute an offence.
Harassment can also be dealt with in the civil courts, by a claimant issuing proceedings for damages. These kind of proceedings will commonly also involve an application for an injunction.
In its most basic form, hearsay evidence is essentially second-hand information.
It has less evidential value than first-hand evidence (for example, it cannot properly be subjected to cross-examination) and in the context of criminal proceedings there often legal arguments about its admissibility.
An example would be of Person A giving evidence about something Person B told him he saw Person C do. The accuracy or detail of the information cannot properly be tested as Person B is not in court to answer any questions on what he was Person C do.
In the context of confiscation proceedings, hidden assets are assets that the court is satisfied that the defendant controls, despite there being no tangible evidence of their existence, and thus should form part of the defendant's available assets.
A typical example may be where a defendant is convicted of robbing a bank of £1 million in cash and the cash has not been recovered. The financial investigator is unable to identify the precise location of the cash and the existence of cash is not disclosed by the defendant (e.g. where the defendant has stashed the money under the floorboards).
It is open to the prosecution to assert there is a hidden asset in the prosecutor's statement and for a defendant to rebut the allegation in his/her response (e.g. by proving it was never in his/her control or disposed of for no consideration and cannot be recovered)
The High Court of Justice hears civil disputes involving larger sums of money or complex/important issues. It is based at the Royal Courts of Justice in London‚ but also sits at various venues across England and Wales. There are three divisions of the High Court. The types of work each division undertakes is not always clearly defined, but some of the work each undertaken is set out below:-
The Queen's Bench Division
The Queen's Bench Division deals with actions for damages arising from civil wrongs, breaches of contract and libel. It also hears disputes arising from trade and commerce (the "Commercial Court") and other specialist areas of law.
The Family Division
The Family Court deals with Children Act proceedings‚ wardship and adoption applications‚ divorce and ancillary relief proceedings and declarations in medical treatment cases. It also deals with non-contentious probate and the distribution of estates under the intestacy laws.
The Chancery Court
The Chancery Court deals with landlord and tenant matters, disputes concerning property, intellectual property‚ patents‚ trade marks‚ copyright, passing-off, insolvency, commercial frauds, business disputes, financial regulatory work, director disqualification and professional negligence.
The Judicial Committee of the House of Lords was formerly the highest appeal court in England and Wales. It was replaced in 2009 by the Supreme Court, which essentially performs the same function but is independent of parliament.