What is a crime?

Did You Know?

The law uses the word 'sovereign' to describe the king or queen who is the head of a country. That is because the word 'sovereign' would apply  to the monarch, whether it was a queen or a king.

A monarchy is a country that has a king or queen as its head. The law says that the sovereign cannot commit an offence. The words they use to describe it is to say, 'The sovereign is above the law'. Some countries still have kings and queens but those people do not have a role in the government of their country, unlike the sovereign in the United Kingdom. The sovereign in the UK does not make the laws but he or she must agree to each one before it can be used. This is called the royal assent and you can find out more by clicking on the highlighted words.

There are also special rules for official people who represent an overseas country and live in the United Kingdom. These rules apply throughout the world, to safeguard officials from one country when they are living in another country.

The consequences

They may be arrested by the police and taken to a police station. They may have to go to court. In very serious cases, they would go to the high court. That is called the Crown Court. A judge decides on the punishment in the crown court. They may be sent to prison. For less serious offences, they may get a ticket, which is properly called a fixed penalty notice. They may have to go to the lower court. That is called the magistrates' court. Magistrates decide on the punishment at the magistrates' court. They are ordinary citizens or members of the public and are given some training to help them do their job in court.

The clerk, in the magistrates' court, is the person who explains the law to the magistrates. The clerk is a person who has had a lot of legal training. At that court, the person who has done a bad thing could get a short prison sentence but are more likely to be given a fine or have to do some unpaid work in the community to make up for the harm they caused when they committed the crime.