MAGISTRATES COURT PROCEDURE


Micaila Williams - Law For LifeHi, I am Micaila Williams. If you have committed or been accused of any criminal offence we at Law for Life can help you every step of the way. We provide straight talking, affordable and practical advice from specialist Solicitors and Barristers as well as full representation at the Magistrates’ or Crown Court.

We can also provide you with any forms/documents you need to complete the case together with DIY guides if you choose to represent yourself . Feel free to contact us now for more details.


MAGISTRATES COURT PROCEDURE


HOW DO I KNOW TO ATTEND MAGISTRATES COURT? There are two different ways that you can find yourself in the Criminal Justice System appearing in the Magistrates Court.

1) Via Summons/Postal Requisition

2) Charged by the Police

SUMMONS/POSTAL REQUISITION FOR MAGISTRATES COURT When you receive a summons, you will be told in the summons the date, time and location where your case will be heard for the first time at the Magistrates Court. This is known as a First Appearance or an Early First Hearing.

If you have been summoned to the Magistrates Court for a minor motoring offence and are not liable for disqualification it is likely that you can enter a plea by post and avoid attending Magistrates Court on the named day.

If you fall into this category you will be notified and provided with the necessary paperwork at the same time as your summons.If you are not eligible for a plea by post then you should attend the Magistrates Court as required. Technically you are not committing any offence if you fail to attend this hearing but without your presence you are unable to put forward any points that will be of assistance to your case.

Importantly, if you fail to attend on the day the Magistrates Court is deciding your guilt/innocence then you will usually be convicted in your absence. If you are intending to plead guilty to a driving offence and a disqualification is likely to flow from your guilty plea then your attendance will be required and if you fail to attend then the Magistrates Court will either disqualify you in your absence, or more likely issue a warrant for your arrest.

CHARGED BY THE POLICE FOR MAGISTRATES COURT If the Police have charged you with an offence you will either be remanded into custody to be brought before the next sitting of the Magistrates Court or you will be bailed to attend the Magistrates Court on a date in the future.

If, having been bailed, and you fail to attend court you are committing a separate offence for which you can be sent to prison. The Magistrates Court will issue a Warrant for your arrest to get you to the Magistrates Court.

Once at the Magistrates Court you will decide whether or not you will be pleading guilty or not guilty.

PLEADING GUILTY AT THE MAGISTRATES COURT If you decide to plead guilty at the Magistrates Court then the next step will be for the Magistrates Court to consider sentence. This can happen on the day if the Magistrates Court has enough information about you and the offence to proceed. If the Magistrates Court are considering imposing a community penalty or imprisonment then they may well want to see a Probation Report to assist them in making this decision. This requires an adjournment for either a short time if the Probation Service have time to see you at the Magistrates Court on the day or more usually, up to around 4 weeks in some busy Magistrates Court houses.

The report will be compiled by a Probation Officer who will assess your risk of re-offending, identify areas of risk and assess your suitability for various sentencing options. Once the Magistrates Court has all the information it needs about you and about the offence, it can proceed to sentence.

The Magistrates Court will listen to the facts of the offence by the Prosecution, who will then ask for ancillary orders such as costs, compensation, victim surcharge, restraining orders or forfeiture and destruction orders. It is then your opportunity to address the Magistrates Court and highlight all the things in your favour and anything that makes the offence less serious and shows you as the offender in a more favourable light.

The Magistrates Court will then sentence you and give brief reasons for their sentence. They will have regard to the Magistrates Court Sentencing Guidelines in relation to your particular offence.

See our  free guide to sentencing ( for adults ) or to assist with your understanding of the orders that may be made against you.

APPEAL AGAINST SENTENCE If you are genuinely aggrieved by your sentence from the Magistrates Court you can appeal against the sentence to the Crown Court.

If you are found Not Guilty, and had legal representation at any stage, you should give consideration to getting your legal costs back.

PLEADING NOT GUILTY If you choose to plead not guilty you will need to explain to the Magistrates Court the issues and identify which prosecution witnesses you need to attend the Magistrates Court and why. The Magistrates Court will then set down some directions so the case is ready to proceed and they will fix a date for the trial. This can be some distance away depending on witness availability and Magistrates Court timetables.

The Magistrates Court will then hear your case and decide whether you are guilty or innocent. If you are found Guilty then will proceed to sentence (as described above).

APPEAL AGAINST CONVICTION If you are genuinely aggrieved by your conviction you can appeal against the conviction to the Crown Court. If you are found Not Guilty, and had legal representation at any stage, you should give consideration to getting your legal costs back.

EITHER-WAY OFFENCES You may be charged/summons for a matter which is referred to as an “either-way offence.” All this means is that the case can either be heard in the Magistrates Court or in the Crown Court.

When you attend for your first hearing and enter your plea, the Magistrates Court will go on to consider which court should hear your case. If the Magistrates Court decide that it can be heard in the Magistrates Court you still have the right to ask for it to be heard in the Crown Court by a jury. However, if they decide it is too serious for the Magistrates Court, you have no choice and the matter will be sent to the Crown Court for trial.

Some cases will be too serious to be heard in the Magistrates Court. These are known as indictable only matters and include offences such as Murder and Rape.