Three main types of criminal offences exist under UK law. These are:
1. Summary only offences;
2. Either way offences;
3. Indictable only offences.
Summary only offences
This type includes a range of lower-severity offences. These are only tried in magistrates’ court. The exception is when they are linked with a more severe offence that has been allocated to the crown court. The usual maximum sentence for these offences is 6 months’ imprisonment. According to [https://www.lawtonslaw.co.uk/resources/categories-of-offences/], some summary offences examples are:
- offensive words and behaviour;
- common assault (involving minor injury);
- driving offences (except dangerous driving or driving offences that include fatalities).
Either way offences
According to the same source, either way offences examples are:
- assault causing actual bodily harm (ABH);
- possession of drugs;
They can be tried in either magistrates’ or crown court. A person charged with this type of offence must first appear in the magistrates’ court and make a plea. The court then decides where to allocate the case for sentence or trial. If the magistrates decide that their sentencing powers are insufficient, they will allocate the case to the crown court. If they don’t, the defendant will have a choice where to have the trial.
Indictable only offences
This type covers the most serious offences – robbery, rape, manslaughter, and murder. They are tried only in the crown court. However, the defendant still needs to appear in the magistrates’ court first. When it comes to indictable only offences, the bail is most often refused and requires special application by the advocate. When indictable only offences are sent to the crown court, some related either way and summary only offences are sent along with it. In the crown court, if the case goes to trial, the jury decides whether the defendant is guilty or not, and the judge passes the sentence.