90 How are the police organised?
91 When can the
police carry guns?
92 What is the
difference between a judge, a barrister and a solicitor?
93 Why are wigs
worn by lawyers?
94 What is the
90 How are the police organised?
There are 52 police forces in Britain, mainly
organised on a local basis.
The Metropolitan Police Force and the City
of London force are responsible for policing London.
Each force in
England and Wales is responsible to a police authority consisting of local
councillors, magistrates and independent members. Since April 1996 the
police authority in Scotland comprises four joint police boards made up of
local councillors. The police force in Northern Ireland, the Royal Ulster
Constabulary, is responsible to an independent police authority appointed
by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. For historical reasons,
the Home Secretary is responsible for London’s Metropolitan Police Force,
advised by the Metropolitan Police Committee. For the City of London
Police the authority is a committee of the Corporation of
Provincial forces are headed by a chief constable, deputy chief
constable and assistant chief constable. The top Metropolitan Police ranks
are the commissioner, deputy commissioner, assistant commissioner, deputy
assistant commissioner and commander. Thereafter all ranks are the same in
the forces - chief superintendent, superintendent, chief inspector,
inspector, sergeant and constable.
Police/community liaison consultative groups operate in every police
authority; they consist of representatives from the police, local
councillors and community groups. Most forces use customer surveys to
provide information on public attitudes. These are used to shape the
standards of service being provided.
The heart of policing is the
work done by police constables, who are in constant contact with the
public. They patrol the streets on foot, or in cars, give advice and deal
with disturbances. Local crime prevention panels - each one assisted by
the police - identify crime problems and try to tackle them through
publicity. The police are closely involved in setting up ‘neighbourhood
watch’ schemes, advising residents on home security and encouraging
residents to keep an eye on properties in their area and pass on
information to the police about suspicious people or vehicles.
are about 150,000 full-time police officers in Britain, of whom around 12
per cent are women.
91 When can the police
Usually uniformed police officers carry a truncheon or baton to protect
themselves against violence. In England, Scotland and Wales firearms may
be issued only to specially trained police officers, known as Authorised
Firearms Officers, and then only on the authority of a senior
Authority is given when an officer is likely to face an armed
criminal or when an officer is deployed to protect a person who may be at
risk of attack. Officers may fire weapons only as a last resort if they
believe that their or other lives are in danger.
Firearms Officer is personally responsible for the decision to fire, and
may be required to justify this action before the courts.
in England and Wales operate a system of armed response vehicles - patrol
cars which carry weapons in a locked box - to provide a speedy initial
response to a firearms incident.
Because of terrorist campaigns in
Northern Ireland, members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary carry firearms
for personal protection.
92 What is the difference
between a judge, a barrister and a solicitor?
A judge is a crucial figure in the trial system. He or she supervises
the conduct of the trial and passes sentence on those who have been
convicted. Judges are normally appointed from practising barristers
(advocates in Scotland) or solicitors and must have at least 10 years
The kind of judge chosen to preside over a case
in court depends on its seriousness and complexity. Very serious offences
are tried on indictment only by the Crown Court. The Crown Court sits in
about 94 centres in England and Wales, many of them consisting of several
Appeals from the Crown Court are made to the Court of
Appeal. A further appeal from the Court of Appeal to the House of Lords
can be brought if a point of law of general public importance is
considered to be involved.
Most minor civil cases are dealt with by the
county courts, of which there are about 270. Cases are heard by circuit
judges or district judges. Magistrates courts are the lowest tier of the
criminal justice system. Justice is delivered not by professional judges
or lawyers, but by appointed representatives of the community, called
Magistrates. Their main job is to deliver ‘summary justice’ to people
charged with less serious crimes. They refer grave offences to the Crown
The legal profession in Britain is divided into two branches:
barristers (advocates in Scotland) and solicitors.
legal business for individual and corporate clients, while barristers
advise on legal problems submitted through solicitors and present cases in
the higher courts. Certain functions are common to both - for example, the
presentation of cases in the lower courts.
Barristers must pass
professional examinations before being called to the Bar (Barristers are
known collectively as the Bar), and they must then serve an apprenticeship
or ‘pupillage’ with a qualified barrister for one year.
also pass professional examinations and serve a two-year period of
apprenticeship called ‘articles’ in a solicitor’s office. Once qualified
in this way, a newly admitted solicitor is supervised for three
93 Why are wigs worn by
Although English legal dress has a long history, it has for the most
part evolved in the same way as common law, without written regulation.
Before the 17th century lawyers did not wear wigs, but professional
discipline required that their hair and beards should be moderately short.
Nevertheless, the introduction of wigs into polite society in the reign of
Charles II (1660-85) was an innovation which could not be resisted! After
a period of disapproval, wigs were generally assumed by lawyers in the
Early wigs are difficult to identify in portraits of the period
because they were of a natural colour and were sometimes combined with a
lock of growing hair at the forehead. However, wigs soon became larger and
increasingly stylised. By the middle of the 17th century wigs of powdered
white or grey hair were the universal custom, but during George III’s
reign (1760-1820) wigs went rapidly out of general use.
bishops were given royal permission to abandon their wigs in the 1830s,
this was not necessarily true of other officials. There is a story that
Lord Eldon, the Lord Chancellor of the day, was refused permission to
leave off his wig at court!
In the 1860s the counsel were permitted to
remove their wigs during a heatwave - this attracted some comment in the
press and it was suggested that wigs were abandoned altogether by the
legal profession. However, the proposal met with little support, though it
has been a common occurrence ever since for judges to allow wigs to be
left off in very hot weather, and sometimes turbans are allowed to be worn
instead of wigs on religious grounds.
94 What is the Old Bailey?
The Old Bailey is the most famous Crown Court in Britain.
official title is the Central Criminal Court, and the figure on the dome
of the building holding the scales of justice remains one of the most
enduring symbols of justice in a free society.
The Old Bailey normally
has 19 courts sitting at one time. Built on the site of the notorious
Newgate Prison, it has brought to trial some infamous murderers - among
them Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged for murder in England; the
‘Brides in the Bath Murderer’, George Joseph Smith; John Christie who
murdered his wife and at least five other women; and the ‘Yorkshire
Ripper’, Peter Sutcliffe.
The old courthouse, built in 1773, was
replaced in 1907 by the present building designed by E.W. Mountford. The
name ‘Old Bailey’ is taken from the street where the court is situated,
which is itself named after an ‘old bailey’ or former outer castle wall
which once stood there.