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The Differences Between US and UK Legal Systems

by Claire Peters 3 years ago in investigation

Here are some key differences you may find between US legal proceedings, and those across the pond.

For Americans who tune into televised courtroom drama, the players are familiar. The judge, front and center, wears dark robes, and sits high above everyone else. To their left and right are lower platforms with microphones for people who will be questioned. Protecting them are the officers of the law, who stand by the flags of the United States, and the state in which the court is held. A court reporter types away off to one side, as the lawyers prepare their case at tables facing the judge.

However, if you find yourself in another country, some of the scenery may be different. Lawyers and judges wear white powdered wigs, and the defendant may be perched behind bars elsewhere in the room.

The courtrooms across the nation, and the world may practice the law, but you will find there are differences to how everyone plays their part.

The Courtroom

In the popular series “Broadchurch,” the criminal case against one of the accused, displays things Americans may not be used to. Besides the Revolutionary styled wigs, lawyers in the UK are known as solicitors or barristers. The job of a lawyer in countries such as England can take place both in, or out of, the courtroom, depending on which path they choose. In the courtroom, barristers are known as the experts, and they cross-examine witnesses or victims in front of the jury. Solicitors can be involved in cases within the court, however, they typically find themselves working outside of the courtroom setting.

Like in the US, UK juries are randomly chosen, but American juries are used far more often than in United Kingdom courtrooms. Something that can be commonly seen in the US are televised trials. While there are precautions in place to protect people, such as a witness’s testimony, the public may be able to understand the justice system better if more trials were televised in the UK, as this is not practiced.

Jobs in the Legal Field

Whether an individual is a Denver criminal lawyer, or a legal professional in any other part of the world, their job is to support those needing an advocate and seeking justice. A criminal psychologist, for example, uses their skills to help those who have committed crimes seek rehab, while aiding law enforcement to understand their patterns of behaviors. Both the US and the UK have government divisions, the FBI and MI5 respectively. These agencies deal with domestic issues, from terrorism to espionage.

Everything that occurs in the courtroom has to be recorded for future reference. Professionals, such as court reporters in Fort Lauderdale, are trained to document everything that is said by lawyers, judges, and witnesses. In the United Kingdom, those who collect and preserve this information are called verbatim reporters, and much like in the US, they help keep the integrity of every word spoken in court. Reporters use machines called stenographs to record at an extremely-fast pace. By using a method of abbreviations on a 22-key stenograph, up to 300 words per minute can be documented. Besides legal matters, they can also be employed to record information, such as the minutes at a business meeting, or speech-to-text that is used for the hearing impaired on television.

In the United States, the laws of the land are set through rules and rights stemming from the US Constitution. Such documents are generated to describe how a governing body lays out the rules and laws for its people to follow. In the UK, however, there is no written constitution. Instead the law and land is run by a constitutional monarchy, which can also be found in countries like Sweden and Jordan. This means the monarchy and the government share power and responsibilities in running the country together.

Keep these key differences in mind to help you distinguish US legal proceedings from those in the UK.


Claire Peters

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Claire Peters
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