Here are UKCriminallawblog we’re not allowed to give legal advice, so please don’t ask for it. We can only tell you that if you are charged with a criminal offence it’s best to be represented. You can seek representation from a solicitors firm or a direct access barrister. This may be free of charge. Contact them to find out.
What we can do is set out some basic facts to let you know what to expect when you’re charged with a criminal offence. This is one such example.
All criminal matters start life in the Magistrates’ Court but many conclude in the Crown Court.
Indictable-only offences, such as robbery, can only be tried in the Crown Court.
Either-way offences (those that can be tried either in the Crown Court or the Magistrates’ Court) that are deemed not suitable for summary trial due to their seriousness, will be sent to the Crown Court.
Alternatively an individual charged with an either-way offence can elect to be tried in the Crown Court.
The first hearing in the Crown Court is a Preliminary Hearing. This is often held a couple of weeks after the first appearance in the Magistrates’ Court. At this hearing the defendant will be afforded full “credit” (a 1/3 reduction in sentence) for entering a guilty plea. If no plea is entered, or if a not guilty plea is entered, trial preparations will begin by the fixing of a timetable. This will include a date for the CPS to serve their evidence on the defendant or his/her legal representatives, a date by which a Defence Statement should be served, a date for the next hearing (the Plea and Case Management Hearing) and, often, a provisional trial listing. If the defendant is in custody and is yet to apply for bail in the Crown Court, he Preliminary Hearing May afford an opportunity to do so. If a guilty plea is entered the defendant may be sentenced straight away, although often a Pre-Sentence Report is sought, in which case the sentencing hearing will be adjourned. Even if a Pre-Sentence Report is not granted, sentence may be adjourned to a future date.
If no plea is entered at the Preliminary Hearing, or if a not guilty plea is entered, the Plea and Case Management Hearing (“PCMH”) will be the second hearing in the Crown Court. By this hearing the CPS should have served all of the evidence which they seek to rely upon. The defendant will be expected to enter a plea, be it guilty or not guilty. If a guilty plea is entered, the defendant will usually receive 25% credit. If a not guilty plea is entered, final trial preparations take place, such as determining witness requirements and fixing a date for trial. Often Defendants are given a “warned list” for trial, a one or two week duration during which their case should come into the list for trial. The “lists”, detailing all of the Court hearings/trials for a particular day, will be published on Courtserve the previous afternoon. Some cases, often those involving young witnesses, particularly serious offences or matters expected to last more than 4 days or so, will have a “fixture”, or a fixed date for trial.
Following the PCMH, a Pre-Trial Review may be fixed, to ensure both parties are ready for the trial. Often, particularly in straightforward matters, these PTRs are dispensed with.
If there is no PTR, the next date is likely to be for trial. You can find out more about Crown Court trials here.