criminal justice system
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criminal justice systemthe set of institutions developed as the STATE response to CRIME and criminals. In England and Wales, the main elements of the criminal justice system are the POLICE, the magistracy and crown courts, the Crown Prosecution Service and the prison system, although some aspects of social work and the Probation Service are intrinsic to the system. These institutions are organized and administered separately, though they are all answerable, at some level, to the Home Office. Aspects of the criminal justice systems of Scotland and Northern Ireland are significantly different from the English model: ‘Diplock’ courts in Northern Ireland, for example, try many ‘terrorist’ and some other offenders without using the jury system, while in Scotland the unique office of the procurator fiscal is central to the prosecution of criminal trials. There has been very little sociological work on the criminal justice system as a whole. Most studies concentrate on some particular aspect of the system or some specific issue relating to policing, the work of the courts, sentencing, etc. An exception to this is Fitzgerald and Muncie's (1987) overview.
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000