All kinds of legal issues can be dealt with in a court to solve the problem if it can't be sorted out in some other way. You can be involved with courts in various ways. For example, you might start divorce proceedings, or be taken to court in criminal proceedings. You might also be asked to go to court as a witness.

Lawyers can be involved in court cases. Often they represent all or some of the people involved in a court case. Whatever your previous experience, if you find yourself needing to go to court it helps to do your homework first.

Our court system

The court system can be confusing.  Different cases are dealt with in different types of courts. For example, all criminal cases are dealt in the criminal courts, starting in the magistrates’ court and then, if they are serious enough, the crown court. There is information about the different types on the Courts and Tribunals Judiciary website. You can also find a helpful chart to guide you through the court system. Another source of information about courts is the Citizens Advice website.

- I've heard of magistrates' courts and I've heard of the Crown Court, is there a difference?

- Broadly speaking, magistrates' courts, they deal with less serious crimes. So things like minor shoplifting offences, like road traffic kind of offences.

- Speeding and things?

- Yeah. And then the Crown Court is what we call a higher criminal court, and that deals with more serious cases. So it could be kind of serious assaults, like grievous bodily harm and things like that, it could be sexual offences, right the way up to murder and things like that. So they're the main differences between the two courts. A big difference is that in the Crown Court, you get jury trials, which is probably what people are used to seeing on TV, where it's a jury as well as the judge, in the magistrates' court, you've got a panel of magistrates dealing with the cases, no jury in the magistrates' court.

More on going to court