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Most merchant shipping statutory instruments provide for two grades of penalty: one on summary conviction and the other on conviction on indictment. What is the difference between summary conviction and conviction on indictment?

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Summary conviction is a conviction by magistrates in England or Wales, or by a sheriff in Scotland, following a trial in a lower court using summary procedure. 

It is used mainly for minor offences. No jury sits, so the judge(s) decides questions of both fact and law. Sentencing powers are limited by statute (see Offences and Fines below). Conviction on indictment follows a trial in a more senior court (e.g. the Crown Court, or the High Court in Scotland) where the accused, being charged with a serious offence, is indicted to appear before a jury of 12 people in England or Wales, or 15 in Scotland, who decide questions of fact, the judge deciding questions of law only. The court procedure is called solemn procedure. Prison sentences are limited by statute but fines are unlimited on conviction on indictment.

 

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