Warning: Creating default object from empty value in /home1/casare7/public_html/actto.co.uk/site/wp-content/themes/diarise/functions/admin-hooks.php on line 160

Criminal Offences Classified

Accredited By

The Classification of Criminal Offences

In the coming weeks I will dicuss the responsibilities of door supervisors and security guards when working within England and Wales. This is a subject also covered in all SIA Security courses. Clearly all security operatives working within the UK private security industry are required to have a license issued by the SIA this fact is clearly stated by the SIA on their website and of course here.

In this article I am going to discuss the classification of criminal offences within the justice system. This is important for all security operatives, although my focus here is for CCTV operators, security guards and door supervisors as they are on the front line.

There is a critical need to distinguish the difference between civil and criminal law within the UK. On this website, I will be discussing the law within England and Wales only. The difference between civil and criminal law will not be address here in this article but in a later article. So this article shall focus on criminal offences and the way criminal offences are classified.

How Are Criminal Offences Classified?

In the criminal justice system of England and Wales criminal offences are classified in 3 ways. These are

  • Summary offences
  • Indictable offences
  • Either way offences

Now if you are reading this page the chances are you are working or seeking to work within the security industry. Whether you are working as a security officer or a door supervisor, there is a need to understand different criminal offences and specifically what you can and cannot do. This will lead us to a summary of the powers of arrest security operatives have in a future article.

The Definition Of The 3 Criminal Offences

So let us look an explanation of these criminal offences start the summary, followed by the either way and finally the indictable offences.

Summary Offences. These are the least serious criminal offences we have in the criminal justice system of England and Wales. Summary offences are triable in the Magistrates Court. The maximum sentence for a summary offence is 12 months imprisonment, or fine of up to £5000.

Summary offences as stated are tried before the magistrates court, with 3 magistrates sitting without a jury, in some rare circumstances you may find that there are only 2 magistrates. Magistrates do not undergo the formal legal training that solicitors, barristers and judges, but do nevertheless undergo training. The magistrates (also known as justices of the peace[JP]) are people of good standing within their community who volunteer their time to help with local justice. In the ideal world the magistrates should reflect the community in which they serve. The Magistrates court is what I like to term as the closest thing we have in England and Wales to instance justice. What I mean by that is for the vast majority of the cases that are tried the magistrates will hear the evidence within 1 day, usually no more than 2 hours and both the verdict and sentence are pronounced on that same day. There are of course exceptions and I should state for clarity that all criminal proceeding start at the magistrates court where the accused gets the opportunity to enter a plea. If the accused (the defendant) pleads not guilty then a date is set for the hearing. Therefore it is never instance justice. However what I mean here is that there is a speedy verdict and judgement, from the beginning of the trial to the end of the trial (judgement/sentence if found guilty). Usually this is within hours and certainly a day. Again there are always exceptions. An example of a summary offence is speeding and common assault


Either way offences. These can be regarded as the middle of the road (criminal offences) crimes. These are crimes that can be tried in either the magistrates court or crown court hence the term either way. The anomaly that exists with either way offences is that both the defendant and the magistrates can elect to have the case tried in the crown court. Examples of an either way offences include theft and dangerous driving.

Indictable offences. These are the most serious crimes that exist in the criminal justice system. All indictable offences must be tried at the crown court, but as stated above the first hearing is dealt with at the magistrates’ Court. If a guilty plea is entered at the magistrates court, a date for sentencing to take place at the crown court shall be set. The magistrate will decide if the defendant should be given bail. If on the other hand the defendant pleads not guilty plea, then the magistrates will send the case to crown court for trial. At the crown court there will be a Judge and jury, the defendant will have a barrister representing them in the crown court. It important to state that at crown court only a barrister may advocate for the defendant. Examples of indictable offences include murder and robbery.

In the next article, the criminal offences discussed in this article will act as the basis that we look at to understand the powers to make an arrest that exist in English Law for members of the public and security operatives.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply