Courts’ Role in the Criminal Justice System


Whenever the frame of criminal justice is used, people are very likely to think of police officers, prosecution and defense lawyers, or elected officials charged with the responsibility of passing laws. To understand criminal justice, however, it is imperative to think of it broadly as part of the social institution of government. Such a perception helps understand how the criminal justice system is organized and linked to the wider society.

As noted in the paper, the criminal justice system is designed to create fairness in society. Through the courts, criminal justice ensures that offenders receive a fair trial. The criminal justice system is also used by state governments to assure the public that offenders receive the kind of treatment deserved.


Drawing from a study by May, Minor, Ruddell & Matthews (2007), all societies are made up of social institutions which are established groupings of people, beliefs, and practices with some key characteristics. The first characteristic is that social institutions are steady and enduring. Secondly, every institution is established to deal with a particular set of needs in society. Examples of such institutions are family, religion, and political or government institutions. The third characteristic is that institutions in society are linked to each other.

According to Waldron et al. (2011), the major components of the criminal justice system are the same for all societies. The criminal justice system helps to keep crime under control, assure everyone that those who act against the law get what they deserve, and ensure that offenders are not subjected to unfair treatment.

Courts in Criminal Justice

The court is at the center of the criminal justice system (Gandhi, 2010). The central mandate of the court is to ensure the due process of law is strictly followed from the time one is arrested until he or she is released. Courts also have a responsibility to supervise the work done by the police, prosecutor, and defense counsel. Gandhi (2010) further notes that the court plays a dual role in the criminal justice system. Besides being a participant in the criminal justice system, the court supervises the practices of the criminal justice system (Daly, 2011).

As a participant, the court must establish whether the accused is guilty or innocent and impose sanctions. In some cases, the court also serves as a correctional agency. How the judiciary is organized also affects the approach taken toward sentencing of convicted offenders. In present-day society, the judiciary is also charged with the responsibility of integrating offenders back into society. Arguably, how the judiciary regards the offender determines how he or she gets accepted back into society.

Based on a study by Grounds (n.d.), the criminal justice system consists of several agencies. They include the police, crown prosecution service, courts, lawyers, probation services, and the prison service. The courts in the criminal justice system include the magistrates’ courts, crown court, youth court, the court of appeal, and Supreme Court. These are briefly described in the following subsection.

The magistrates’ court is regarded as the court of the first instance for all offenders and deals with a very high percentage of crimes. The crown court handles appeals from the magistrates’ courts. Cases in the crown court are heard by the judge and jury and the presiding judges are selected based on the complexity of the case at hand. The youth court on the other hand only deals with criminal matters and the cases are usually handled by specially trained magistrates. The court of appeal is tasked with hearing appeals by defendants against a ruling passed by the lower courts. The court of appeal has the power to either reduce or increase a sentence. Finally, the Supreme Court has the responsibility of supervising all the other courts and personnel (Lopez, n.d.). Unlike other courts, the Supreme Court has the power to discipline judges of the lower courts.


As discussed in this paper, the criminal justice system is critical for every government in the world. Supported by several agencies which include the courts, the criminal justice system ensures that there is peace and order in the society.


Daly, K. (2011). Aims of the Criminal Justice System. Web.

Gandhi, V. H. (2010). Judicial Approach in Criminal Justice System: An Experience of India. New Delhi: Readworthy.

Grounds, A. (n.d.). The Criminal Justice System. Web.

Lopez, J. L. C. (n.d.). Towards a Responsive Criminal Justice System in the Philippines. Web.

May, D. C., Minor, K. I., Ruddell, R. & Matthews, B. A. (2007). Corrections and the Criminal Justice System. Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Waldron, R. J., Quarles, C. L., McElreath, D. H., Waldron, M. E. & Milstein, D. E. (2009). The Criminal Justice System: An Introduction. Tulsa, OK: CRC Press.

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