Court Process (The Magistrates’ Court)
The Court Hearing
If you have to attend a court hearing this is generally what will happen:
The Legal Adviser calling the case will ask you to identify yourself and state the charge against you.
Many cases will be dealt with in one session but sometimes the case may be adjourned to another hearing. Adjournments can be requested by the Prosecution or Defence and if the Magistrates agree, the Court may order the adjournment, always ensuring that progress is made at the next hearing.
When all sides are ready to proceed you will be Task 3. Render the text. asked to plead guilty* or not guilty. If the case is serious enough a decision may be made to have the case heard in a higher criminal court, the Crown Court.
With some offences (either way offences) the case could be heard either at the Magistrates’ Court or at Crown Court. If you plead or intend to plead not-guilty, the Magistrates will first of all decide if this is a case which they could hear (i.e. would their sentencing power be sufficient if you were found guilty). If the offence is “either way” you have a right for Task 3. Render the text. the case to be heard at Crown Court.
Defendants who plead guilty will be dealt with at once and a sentence passed. Sometimes it may be necessary to “stand the case down” or adjourned for sentencing, for reports about the Defendant to be prepared to aid the Magistrates in deciding on the sentence.
If a not guilty plea is given, the case will usually be adjourned to another date for a Pre Trial Review so that both sides can arrange which witnesses should appear and how long a trial is likely to last. Finally, a trial date will be fixed Task 3. Render the text..
The Magistrateswill listen to the proceedings. They make decisions on procedural questions, such as where the trial should be heard, whether to grant adjournments etc.
If the defendant elects a trial, the Magistrates will listen to the evidence and decide on guilt or innocence. If the defendant pleads guilty or is found guilty the Magistrates will determine the sentence to be imposed.
The Magistrates will also decide on the issue of Bail. In most cases unconditional Bail will be granted. However, if there is any evidence that a defendant is unlikely to attend, may commit further offences, or Task 3. Render the text. interfere with witnesses, then the defendant may be refused Bail, or may be granted bail with conditions that will ensure attendance, will prevent the commission of offences or will prevent interference with witnesses.
The Prosecutorpresents the case against the defendant. He or she is usually a member of the Crown Prosecution Service when an ordinary criminal offence has been alleged.
Other organisations also prosecute e.g. Local council for council tax defaulters*, Department of Transport for Excise Licences* etc.
The Legal Adviseradvises the Magistrates on law and stated cases when determining sentences and if asked by the Defendant Task 3. Render the text. will impartially advise on legal points. Advice will be given in an unbiased way. Some parts of the formal proceedings will be conducted by him/her. If a person is in court for non-payment of fines (when a Prosecutor is not present) the Legal Adviser may, with the permission of the Magistrates, ask questions
The Defence Advocate will act on behalf of the Defendant. Only a lawyer (a barrister or solicitor) can professionally perform this role. A defendant can conduct the case in person, usually for less serious cases, as a Defence Advocate is not compulsory, Narey days are the fast Task 3. Render the text. track courts when all defendants are pleading guilty and can normally be dealt with on the day.
Ushers are assigned to each court; they wear black gowns. Before a hearing starts the Defendant should make themselves known to the Usher who can answer any problems they might have and put them in contact with their solicitor if they have one representing them.
If a trial is heard, witnesses will usually be called by both sides to help prove their case. Evidence in chief will first be given, and then the witness will usually be cross examined by the Task 3. Render the text. other side.
In certain circumstances, witnesses may give evidence and be cross examined via a video link which connects the courtroom with to a room in another part of the courthouse. In Trafford, this is within the Witness Suite. This is used particularly by vulnerable witnesses and children will often give evidence in this manner.
As a Defendant, you may be inside the dock, but in less serious cases you will be outside the dock. Whenever a decision is to be made you will have a chance to pass comment. This will normally be done through your lawyer if you have Task 3. Render the text. one. You can request or object to an adjournment. If you have pleaded guilty and after the Prosecutor has outlined the facts, you will have the opportunity to explain you point of view before the Magistrates reach a decision.
The Press and Public are allowed to attend an Adult Court, but not normally in a Youth Court.
The Probation Service (and the Youth Offending Team in Youth Cases) are sometimes asked by the Magistrates to produce a report when either Community Penalties or Custody is being considered. In most cases this will be produced on the same day Task 3. Render the text. as a Specific Sentence Report. In some cases an adjournment will be necessary, normally no longer than 3 weeks. This will enable Magistrates to make the sentence appropriate for the offence and to the offender to help to address offending behaviour.