The Crown Court of England and Wales is, together with the High Court of Justice and the Court of Appeal, one of the constituent parts of the Senior Courts of England and Wales. It is the highest court of first instance in criminal cases; however, for some purposes the Crown Court is hierarchically subordinate to the High Court and its Divisional Courts.
The Crown Court sits in around 92 locations in England and Wales. The administration of the Crown Court is conducted through HM Courts and Tribunals Service. Previously conducted across six circuits (Midland, Northern, North Eastern, South Eastern, Wales & Chester and Western), HM Courts and Tribunals Service is now divided into seven regions: Midlands, North East, North West, South East, South West, London and Wales. The Wales region was identified separately, having regard to the devolved legislative powers of the Welsh Assembly Government. When the Crown Court sits in the City of London it is known as the Central Criminal Court. The "Central Criminal Court" at the Old Bailey, originally established by its own Act of Parliament, is a Crown Court centre, and is the venue at which many of the most serious criminal cases are heard.
The Crown Court carries out four principal types of activity: appeals from decisions of magistrates; sentencing of defendants committed from magistrates’ courts, jury trials, and the sentencing of those who are convicted in the Crown Court, either after trial or on pleading guilty. The average time from receipt by the Crown Court to completion was 177 days by the start of 2016.
Rather than speaking of a location at which the Crown Court sits, it is common practice to refer to any venue as a Crown Court, e.g., Teesside Crown Court.
In 2015 the Crown Court heard 11,348 appeals against conviction, sentence or both, from those convicted in the magistrates' courts. At the conclusion of the hearing the Crown Court has the power to confirm, reverse or vary any part of the decision under appeal. If the appeal is decided against the accused, the Crown Court has the power to impose any sentence which the magistrates could have imposed, including one which is harsher than the one originally imposed. The average waiting time for appeals was 8.8 weeks in 2015.
In 2015, the Crown Court dealt with 30,802 cases for sentencing from the magistrates' courts. As the magistrates' courts only have the power to impose a six-month custodial sentence or a £5,000 fine, the court has the power to commit defendants to the Crown Court for sentencing — this can be done when they are of the opinion that either the offence, or the combination of the offence and one or more offences associated with it, was so serious that greater punishment should be inflicted than the magistrates' court has power to impose, or, in the case of a violent or sexual offence, that a custodial sentence longer than the court has power to impose is necessary to protect the public from serious harm. Committals may also arise from breaches of the terms of a Community Rehabilitation Order or a suspended sentence of imprisonment. The court performance target is that cases committed for sentence should be heard within 10 weeks.
When the Crown Court is dealing with a matter connected with a trial on indictment (i.e., a jury trial), appeal lies to the criminal division of the Court of Appeal and thence to the Supreme Court. In all other cases, appeal from the Crown Court lies by way of case stated to a Divisional Court of the High Court.