Roles of people in the court
After a person has been charged with a crime, a judge or a judge and jury must decide if there is enough evidence to convict that person of the crime. Prosecutors present arguments and evidence for the guilt of the accused person. Defence lawyers present arguments and evidence for the innocence of the accused person. Victims may be asked to present evidence in court during the criminal proceedings. If there is a trial, they may be asked to testify in court.
Persons charged with a crime are presumed innocent until they plead guilty or they are proven guilty in court. If there is a trial, the prosecutor must have evidence to present in court to prove the crime.
What do the Judge and Jury do?
The judge is a public official appointed to decide cases in a court of law and the judge is the person in charge of the Court. He or she listens to what is said in the Court and decides if the accused person is guilty, unless there is a jury to make this decision instead.
A jury is a group of usually 12 members (but could be up to 14 members) of the public who are asked to attend the Court to listen to everything that is said in the trial and decide if the accused person is guilty or not. They get their instructions from the judge and are not allowed to have contact with the accused or with the witnesses.
What does a prosecutor do?
Prosecutors are government lawyers who prosecute criminal cases. To prosecute means to lay a charge in a criminal matter and to prepare and conduct legal proceedings against a person charged with a crime. The prosecutor prepares the case by:
- researching the law;
- gathering and reviewing evidence, exhibits, and preparing paperwork for the Court; and
- interviewing witnesses.
What does a defence lawyer do?
A defence lawyer is a lawyer who represents a person charged with a criminal offence. It is the defence lawyer's job to ensure that the rights of the accused are protected throughout the criminal process. At trial, a defence lawyer must:
- question the evidence put forward by the prosecution;
- examine the importance or relevance of that evidence; and
- explore other possible interpretations.
What is the role of witnesses and victims?
The testimony of witnesses and victims is a very important part of the criminal justice process. All the facts and evidence in a case must be presented to the Court. To ensure this, witnesses and victims may receive a subpoena to testify in court. A subpoena is an order of the Court that orders a person to appear in court and give evidence. Witnesses and victims should read the subpoena carefully.
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