Comparative criminal justice systems
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Comparative Criminal Justice Systems. An International Perspective on Courts Reichel. World Court Organizations. Similar in structure – Unique in design In other words, there is a universal use of a basic hierarchical structure among world court organizations.

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Comparative Criminal Justice Systems

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Comparative criminal justice systems

Comparative Criminal Justice Systems

An International Perspective on Courts


World court organizations

World Court Organizations

Similar in structure – Unique in design

In other words,

there is a universal use of a basic hierarchical structure

among world court organizations.

This structure is composed of lower-level, intermediate-level,

and highest level courts.

However, there are many unique variations of this basic theme.



Criminal Courts

Civil Courts

France criminal courts trial level

France: Criminal Courts“Trial Level”

  • Police court: a basic tribunal for minor offenses subject to a fine (or trial).

  • Correctional court: has jurisdiction of lesser criminal offenses subject to penalties up to 10 years imprisonment. The trial is before one or three professional judges.

  • Assize court: has original jurisdiction in serious felony cases subject to penalties from fines to life imprisonment. The trial is before nine lay jurors and three professional judges. Conviction requires 8 of the 12 members. Standard of proof: “are you thoroughly convinced.”

France appeal courts

France: Appeal Courts

  • Court of Appeal: hears limited appeals from police courts. Appeals based on decisions of guilt, innocence, dismissal, or sentence from correctional courts. Accused or prosecuting attorney can appeal. Three judge panel.

  • Supreme Court of Appeal: court of last resort – five civil chambers, one criminal chamber. The court lacks original jurisdiction and is headed by a president and at least 7 judges (from a total of 15 – full court). The court rules on a point of law applied by a lower court.

Key issues france

Key Issues: France

  • French defendants do not enter pleas.

  • All cases, in principle, go to trial.

  • Any prior convictions of the accused are admissible as relevant evidence.

  • Fact-finding is dominated by professional judges.

  • There are no separate guilt-finding and sentencing phases.

  • In determining guilt and sentence, the French consider past behavior, character, and the current charge.

  • The accused, who is not put under oath, is not required to answer questions.



England criminal courts trial level

England: Criminal Courts“Trial Level”

  • Magistrate’s Court: lowest level of the criminal court hierarchy, however, virtually all cases begin here and at least 95 percent are resolved at this level. Unpaid lay magistrates (2 or 3 judge panels) or stipendiary magistrates hear cases – there are no juries at this level. Magistrate’s clerks advise on points of law and procedure.

  • Crown Court: has both appellate and original jurisdiction and hears cases involving serious offenses (i.e., murder, robbery, rape). Trial by jury is allowed at this level. A circuit judge presides. Juries determine guilt based on a majority verdict.

England appeal courts

England: Appeal Courts

  • Court of Appeal: hears appeals on conviction and sentence by defendants. The prosecution cannot appeal a verdict of acquittal. The court is presided over by the Lord Chief Justice and hears appeals based on the transcripts of the evidence taken at the trial.

  • House of Lords: final court of appeal on points of law in criminal cases.

Nigeria modern court system

Nigeria: Modern Court System

Nigeria traditional court system

Nigeria: Traditional Court System

Nigeria federal courts

Nigeria: Federal Courts

  • Federal High Court: primarily civil jurisdiction, i.e., immigration and taxation.

  • Federal High Court of Appeals: hears appeals from the federal high court, the state high courts, Shari’a courts of appeal, and the customary courts of appeal. Consists of a president and a number of justices prescribed by legislation (at least three must be knowledgeable in Islamic law and three in customary law).

  • Supreme Court of Nigeria: Consists of a chief justice and fifteen associate justices (prescribed by federal legislation) who are appointed by the president (recommended by the National Judicial Council). Appellate jurisdiction over lower federal courts and highest state courts.

Nigeria state courts

Nigeria: State Courts

  • Each state has its own judicial system. Thirty-six states and Federal Territory of Abuja.

  • Magistrate courts (or District Courts): first instance in civil and criminal (felony) matters.

  • High Courts: original and appellate jurisdiction.

Nigeria traditional courts

Nigeria: Traditional Courts

  • Customary courts: customary law (traditional law) - decide cases by reference to established customs, beliefs, and values. Lay judges. Popular in southern states. Appeals go to state-level court of appeals. Cases dealing with personal injury and minor crimes.

  • Shari’a courts: implement Islamic law in states that have declared Islamic law (northern states). Appeals go to state-level Shari’a court of appeals. Cases dealing with personal injury and minor crimes, i.e., adultery, therft.

Nigeria courts major issues

Nigeria Courts: Major Issues

  • Legal system based on English common law, Islamic law, and customary law.

  • Independence from Britain in 1960. Current civilian government and constitution adopted in 1999.

  • Religious Population: Approximately 50% Muslim, 40% Christian, and 10% indigenous religion or no religion.

  • Nigerians have negative reactions to secular courts and their cumbersome procedures, thus the emphasis on customary law and Islamic law to resolve conflict.



Mediation Committees

China courts

China: Courts*

  • Basic People’s Courts: have original trial jurisdiction over ordinary criminal and civil cases (urban district level; rural county level). A panel of three judges or a combination of a total of three judges and people’s assessors (lay persons) adjudicate case.

  • Intermediate Courts: municipal level cases.

  • Higher People’s Courts: province level cases.

  • Supreme People’s Court: handles cases impacting the entire country. Interprets statutes and provides explanations and advisory opinion to lower courts based on principles advocated by the National People’s Congress or the Communist Party. Panels of 3-7 judges and assessors (same as in Higher People’s Courts).

    * The courts are agencies of the central government and do not have judicial independence. Court officials are appointed by the people’s congress.

China people s mediation committees

China: People’s Mediation Committees

  • Informal justice

  • Composed of 10 to 20 people (approximately one million committees).

  • Peer pressure establishes informal sanctioning process.

  • Government officials use mass media to spread information on legal norms and the PMC’s enforce those norms.

  • PMC’s resolve issues of misbehavior, deviance, health care and family planning.

Saudi arabia

Saudi Arabia

Saudi arabia shari a courts

Saudi Arabia: Shari’a Courts

  • Courts of Summary Jurisdiction: courts of summary jurisdiction where criminal matters originate. Handles misdemeanors, offenses punishable by flogging, and serious offenses punishable by fines.

  • General Courts: have general jurisdiction and hear all disputes and offenses not heard by the lower summary courts. One judge hears cases unless case involves death or amputation (3 judge panel).

Saudi arabia appeal courts

Saudi Arabia: Appeal Courts

  • Court of Cassation: hears appeals of lower court decisions that are filed by either the convicted person or by the public prosecutor. Automatically reviews lower court judgments involving offenses punishable by death, amputation, flogging (exceeding 40 lashes), or 10 days imprisonment.

  • Higher Council of the Judiciary: has both administrative and judicial powers (appeals of major offenses).

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