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Modelling Mode of Trial

NCJ Number
British Journal of Criminology Volume: 48 Issue: 4 Dated: July 2008 Pages: 482-501
Steven Cammiss; Chris Stride
Date Published
July 2008
20 pages
After a quantitative analysis of data collected from Mode-of-Trial (MoT) hearings (determination of whether the case will be heard in magistrates court, summary trial, or Crown Court) in two English magistrates’ courts, this study proposes a model of the MoT procedure which explores the factors that influence the MoT decision taken by magistrates.
The study found that most MoT decisions were based on the seriousness of the allegations. Serious drug offenses, serious assaults, assaults that caused serious injury, and serious property offenses were all likely to be sent to the Crown Court. This study also found, however, that a number of other variables influenced MoT decisions to varying extents. Court venue and culture, allegations of domestic violence, custodial remands, and ethnicity all played a part according to the model derived from the current analyses. Since the predominant explanatory factor in the model was that of offense seriousness, this suggests that improved guidelines may impact how magistrates view seriousness, and the implementation of increased sentencing power for magistrates could result in magistrates retaining more cases; however, local court cultures and evidence that MoT guidelines are of marginal importance suggest magistrates’ court may be resistant to change. Further research is necessary in order to identify all the factors that influence MoT decisions, so desirable change can be facilitated. The study covered two court venues with differing characteristics, one in a city and the other in a small town. Fieldwork began in March 2001 and was completed in 9 months. Seventy MoT hearings were observed in the city court, and 30 hearings were observed in the town court. For each hearing, an accurate record was made of the outcome variable (whether or not the bench accepted jurisdiction), and possible independent variables. 2 tables, 34 references, and appendix


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