The Assessment Task

  1. Visit a Magistrates’ Court and watch two separate trials
  2. Complete a questionnaire for each trial observed (using attached template)
  3. Write a report which critically assesses both observed trials and the wider issues which affect the efficiency of the trial process

Detailed instructions can be found on page 5 of this document.


Learning Outcomes

The learning outcomes that are being assessed in this assessment are:

  1. a) Select and explain key aspects of the criminal process including investigation, prosecution and trial
  2. b) Recognize and evaluate the impact that political, financial and practical factors have on the effectiveness of the Criminal Justice System
  3. c) Find and use information from a range of sources to develop evidence-based arguments

Your grade will depend on the extent to which you meet these learning outcomes in the way relevant for this assessment. Please see the grading rubric at the end of this assessment brief for further details of the criteria against which you will be assessed.

In accordance with the Assessment and Feedback Policy, as stated in section 4.40 where a submission exceeds the stipulated word limit by more than 10%, the submission will only be marked up to and including the additional 10%. Anything over this will not be included in the final grade for the assessment item. Abstracts, bibliographies, reference lists, appendices and footnotes are excluded from any word limit requirements.

In line with section 4.41 of the same Policy, where a submission is notably under the word limit, the full submission will be marked on the extent to which the learning objectives have been met.

Resit Assessment Support

Assessment support will be provided through one-to-one consultations which will take place during w/c: 20th April 2020.

Generic Grading Criteria

You will find the generic grading criteria for achievement at  University Grading Criteria.  Also explained here are the meanings of the various G grades at the bottom of the grading scale.


Assessment Submission

To submit your work, please go to the ‘Submit your work’ area on the NILE site and use the submission point entitled “Magistrates Court Report- Resit” to upload your report. The deadline for this is 11.59pm (UK local time) on the date of submission. Please note that essays and reports must be submitted as word documents and not PDFs.

Written work submitted to TURNITIN will be subject to anti-plagiarism detection software.  Turnitin checks student work for possible textual matches against internet available resources and its own proprietary database.

When you upload your work correctly to TURNITIN you will receive a receipt which is your record and proof of submission.

If your assessment is not submitted to TURNITIN rather than a receipt you will see a green banner at the top of the screen that denotes successful submission.

N.B Work emailed directly to your tutor will not normally be marked. The only exception to this is when you are instructed to do so because TURNITIN is down.


Late submission of work 

For resits work submitted late will be awarded a LG grade.  There is no opportunity to submit work late for a bare pass.


There are NO extensions for resits.


Mitigating Circumstances

For guidance on Mitigating circumstances please go to Mitigating Circumstances  where you will find detailed guidance on the policy as well as guidance and the form for making an application.

Please note, however, that an application to defer an assessment on the grounds of mitigating circumstances should normally be made in advance of the submission deadline or examination date.


Plagiarism and Academic Integrity

Unless this is a group assessment, the work you produce must be your own with work taken from any other source properly referenced and attributed. The University of Northampton policy will apply in all cases of copying, plagiarism or any other methods by which students have obtained (or attempted to obtain) an unfair advantage.


If you are in any doubt about what constitutes plagiarism or any other infringement of academic integrity, please read the University’s Academic Integrity and Misconduct Policy. For help with understanding academic integrity go to UNPAC  and follow the Top Tips for Good Academic Practice on the student hub.


Please note that the penalties for copying work from another source without proper referencing are severe and can include failing the assessment, failing the module and expulsion from the university.


Feedback and Grades


These can be accessed through clicking on the Feedback and Grades tab on NILE. Feedback will be provided by a rubric with summary comments. You will need to click through to Turnitin to view the feedback.



There are two aims for this piece of work. Firstly, to make you go to the Magistrates’ Court and observe what happens and secondly, to ensure that you consider carefully the overall effectiveness (or not) of the Magistrates’ Court.


The submitted report breaks down into three parts as follows:

  1. Completed questionnaires (approximately 400 words)

You should use the template provided and type your answers into the template. Submit one complete questionnaire per trial. The blank template is 129 words and this can be deducted from your word limit (i.e. you only need to count the words in your answers rather than the template). Your answers to each questionnaire should be approximately 200 words (400 in total)


  1. Critical reflection (approximately 800 words)

In this section you should spend approximately 800 words critically reflecting on the trials you observed. Identify anything good and / or bad that you observed which influenced the process (for example pace too fast / slow, inadequate preparation by lawyers, defendant’s manner / attitude, failure of defendant or witnesses to attend – this is not an exhaustive list). Do not simply describe what you observed; explain why it affected the trial process.


  1. Critical analysis (approximately 800 words)

In this section you should spend approximately 800 words exploring any features of your observed trials which merit further critical analysis by reference to academic material, government reports and other sources. Suitable topics might include unrepresented defendants, access to legal aid, mentally disordered offenders, the use of interpreters, inadequate legal representation, funding cuts, court closures – this is not an exhaustive list). This is your opportunity to critically consider why particular issues have arisen and the effect that these issues are having on the wider criminal justice system. Suggest reform where appropriate.


Guidance notes


  • You may attend any Magistrates’ Court to watch the trials. Court details can be found here:
  • Magistrates’ Courts tend to have specific days when trials take place. You are strongly advised to telephone the listing office for the particular court you intend to visit in advance to check that there will be something suitable to watch. Courts generally sit between 10am and 1pm and then 2pm and 5pm. When attending court you should check with the usher / legal advisor whether you can take notes.
  • By way of a reminder, a trial is a hearing where the defendant has pleaded not guilty and the court hears evidence (usually from witnesses and the defendant) before reaching a verdict. Be careful that what you observe is actually a trial rather than a guilty plea or a sentence hearing – if in doubt check with the Module Leader.
  • Fill in the questionnaires as soon as possible after attending court whilst the visits are fresh in your mind.
  • In previous years students have reported that this exercise is very time consuming, not least because several visits might be needed before you actually see a full trial. It is therefore recommended that you start your court visits as soon as possible. Extensions will not be granted for those who have failed to plan ahead.
  • When writing your report do not simply describe what you have observed. Credit will be given for critical observations. You are expected to refer to academic material, including where relevant journal articles, government reports, statistics and textbooks. See the “reading and resources” section of the NILE site for some suggested sources. Along with the Criminal Justice textbooks on the recommended reading list you may find it useful to look at an English Legal System text.
  • The final submitted work must be fully referenced with a proper bibliography. Submission is electronically via the “submit your work” link on the NILE site.
  • When you submit you must ensure that you submit your work as one complete document which includes your questionnaires. If necessary you can merge the documents (e.g. report and questionnaires) to create a PDF for submission.

Questionnaire – submit one questionnaire for each trial


How many defendants?  
Identify the charge/s and provide a very brief factual summary  
Did the defendant/s appear to understand the procedure?  Explain your answer  
How many magistrates?  
How long did the magistrates deliberate for?  
Did the magistrates ask the Clerk to:

●        Advise them on the law?

●        Advise them on any other matter? (if yes, what?)

●        Be present during their deliberations?

How long was the complete trial?  
What was the verdict?  
If guilty – what was the sentence passed (if no sentence passed – why not?) and what were the reasons given for the particular sentence?  
Do you think the sentence reflected the crime? Why? Why not?  
How effective did you find the prosecutor? Why?  
How effective did you find the defence? Why?