Summary of the 2003 Criminal Justice Act

The Criminal Justice Act of 2003 is one of many amendments to the British criminal justice code. The Act became law on Nov. 20, 2003 and deals with a wide variety of issues and clarifies specific questions or issues that had arisen.


Bail may not be given to individuals who have been arrested for an imprisonable offence and have tested for a Class A drug if the individual refuses to testify as to their use of the drug. No bail for any individual arrested for an imprisonable offence has to be set for 36 hours. The Act also establishes "street bail" (bail immediately paid upon arrest) for any individual who is arrested but does not need to go to the police station.


The police may take electronic fingerprints of any individual arrested and detained. These fingerprints may be added to the National DNA Database.


All material gathered by the prosecution, even evidence not used at the trial, must be disclosed to the defence if it falls under a two stage test. Additionally, the defence must now provide more detailed accounts of their witnesses during disclosure to the prosecution.

Trials on indictment without a jury

Trials may be held without a jury in the case of fraud that is deemed too complex for the jury to reasonably follow. The decision to hold a trial without a jury is at the judge's discretion.

Live Links

The court may hear evidence through a live television link in lieu of the physical presence of a witness.


The Act clarifies several issues relating to sentencing, including allowing the judge to disqualifying fine defaulters from driving, establishing a minimum sentence for some firearm convictions, and increasing several penalties related to drug offences.