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magistrates sentencing powers ?

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artymum | 14:34 Tue 25th Jul 2006 | News
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what is the maximum sentence that a magistrate can hand down ,and when or why would they pass sentencing on to a crown court?

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12 months and they would pass on sentencing when the crime concerned carries more and they think it warrants more but they can't give it. Interestingly the judge may disagree and give less so they have to be pretty sure it's needed when they do it. I'm sure the resident judge will enlighten further.
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Not quite correct.

Magistrates� sentencing powers (as far as custody goes) are limited to six months for any single offence or group of offences. The only exception to this is where they are sentencing a defendant to two or more �either-way� offences (see below) where they can award two six month sentences to run consecutively. Their maximum in this instance is twelve months.

Offences are split into three groups. Summary offences can only be dealt with by Magistrates. Indictable Offences can only be heard in the Crown Court. �Either way� offences are those which can be tried and/or sentenced either at the Magistrates� court or at the Crown Court. The decision where the matter is heard rests firstly with the magistrates. Where the defendant pleads guilty the magistrates will proceed to convict him and decide whether their sentencing powers are sufficient. In the event of a not guilty plea they decide whether they should retain jurisdiction or not. They have guidelines to help them do this (based on the prosecution�s outline of the offence). If they decide to do so, the final decision rests with the defendant who can opt for trial by judge and jury (though he cannot insist on the matter being heard in the lower court if the magistrates have decided otherwise).

All racially aggravated (RA) offences are �either-way�, but so are many (but not all) of their non-RA counterparts. RA by itself does not lead the magistrates to decline jurisdiction and many such offences are heard by magistrates.

Finally, if found guilty of an EW offence following a trial by magistrates, the Bench can still commit the defendant to the Crown Court for sentencing if they consider their powers are inadequate after hearing the full facts.

And very finally, Magistrates� sentencing powers are to be increased to twelve months in the autumn as part of the measures contained within the Criminal Justice Act 2003.

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