There are three types of offence category: summary only, indictable only, or either-way:
These are the least serious matters that can only appear in the Magistrates’ Court*. Matters charged summarily include offences such as minor driving offences and common assault.
These are more serious matters which carry a much higher penalty. As such, they may only be dealt with in the Crown Courts. Offences such as murder or manslaughter are indictable only and carry a maximum life sentence.
These are offences which, within themselves, range in severity, and therefore also vary in the sentence that may be imposed. The severity of the offence is determined on the unique facts of each case, and so it is possible that lower end offences will remain in the Magistrates’ Court where the correct sentence would be one of 6 months or less, whereas a more serious version of that offence, attracting a sentence of more than 6 months, will go up to the Crown Courts where the sentencing powers are wider. Theft is an example of an either-way offence, which can attract a maximum 6 months in the Magistrates’ Court, or a maximum 7 years in the Crown Court. Alternately, even where the Magistrates are satisfied they can retain jurisdiction of an either-way case, it is possible for the defendant to elect a jury trial in the Crown Courts.