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The Criminal Justice Act of 2003

Updated February 21, 2017

The Criminal Justice Act of 2003 is one of several pieces of legislation in the United Kingdom that pertains to the criminal justice procedure. While most of the changes in the Act are only clarifications of previous laws, some brand-new legislation has been introduced.

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The law clarifies the definition of "life sentence" and "dangerous offender." It also establishes certain alternative penalties for summary offences (crimes that are not brought to trial and do not go on the accused's criminal record), such as allowing a judge to take away driving privileges from those who default on fines.


Individuals who have been arrested and test positive for drugs may not be granted bail unless they disclose their drug history. The law also establishes "street bail," which is bail that may be paid immediately to the arresting officer.


The legislation clarifies the role of disclosure during pretrial for both the prosecution and defence--in terms of evidence that the prosecution must hand over to the defence, and likewise a more thorough description of the witness's testimony that defence must give to prosecution--even if these elements are not used in the trial.

Trial Without Jury

At the judge's discretion, a trial may be held without a jury if the accused crime is a type of fraud deemed too complex for the jury to understand.

Video Testimony

At the judge's discretion, testimony may be given via live television feed if the witness is unable to be physically present.


The police are allowed to fingerprint any individual whom they've detained, even without the detainee's permission, if they do not already have their fingerprints in the National DNA Database.

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About the Author

Drew Lichtenstein started writing in 2008. His articles have appeared in the collegiate newspaper "The Red and Black." He holds a Master of Arts in comparative literature from the University of Georgia.

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