All criminal cases commence in the Magistrates Court. Proceedings are begun either by way of a postal requisition being served or by police charge. At Olliers we are very well aware that appearing in court can be a very daunting experience whatever the nature of the allegation you face. If you are to appear in court it is essential that you seek legal representation at the earliest possible opportunity. Olliers have advocates appearing in Magistrates Courts across the country on a daily basis and we have an excellent reputation for the work that we do. If you would like to discuss a forthcoming court appearance you can get in touch with us here.
Types of case at the Magistrates Court
The court classifies all cases into one of three categories.
- Summary only offences are matters that can only be dealt with in the Magistrates Court. These tend to be cases that the court consider to be less serious and include common assault and most public order matters. The vast majority of motoring offences also fall within this category.
- Either way offences are those that commence in the Magistrates Court but can then be dealt with either in that court or the Crown Court. These cases include many allegations of assault such as assault occasioning actual bodily harm and wounding. Dishonesty offences and drugs matters also fall into this category. In some instances either way offences may be dealt with in the Magistrates Court to trial and then be committed to the Crown Court for sentence.
- Indictable only offences are the most serious of matters. Like all other cases they start in the Magistrates Court and are allocated to the Crown Court at the first hearing. Examples of these offences include robbery and conspiracy to commit offences. Whilst these cases are automatically transferred to the Crown Court important matters are still dealt in the Magistrates Court including decisions on bail and issues relating to plea.
What happens at the first Magistrates Court hearing ?
Cases in the Magistrates Court take place before either a District Judge or two or three Magistrates. At the first hearing the court requires pleas to be entered in respect of the charges that a person faces and a decision will then be made as to whether the matter is dealt with in the Magistrates Court or the Crown Court. More so than ever, at virtually very hearing important decisions are made. The Criminal Procedure Rules mean that the court deals with case management issues at an early stage and often make binding decisions in respect of the conduct of a case. The issue of bail is also dealt with at the first hearing.
Trials in the Magistrates Court
If a not guilty plea is entered to a summary only offence the trial will take place in the Magistrates Court. For either way matters the court will decide whether the case should either be allocated to the Crown Court or whether the defendant should be allowed to choose which court deals with their trial. Obviously this can be a very important decision. Either a District Judge or Magistrates may deal with a trial.
Sentencing in the Magistrates Court
The Magistrates Court has a full range of sentencing powers from a discharge or fine to community orders and sentences of imprisonment. The government has recently announced that the courts powers are to be increased so that sentences of up to 12 months imprisonment may be imposed for a single offence. In many cases a person who is found guilty of an offence will be interviewed by a probation officer who will prepare a report for the court which will assess suitability for certain sentences. The court will also have regard to guidelines which cover almost all offences and set out the factors that should be considered when a sentencing decision is made.
Do I need a solicitor if I am to appear in the Magistrates Court?
If you are to appear in court you should seek legal representation as soon as possible. Important decisions are made as soon as a case is in court and you need to ensure that your case is prepared from the outset. At Olliers we have a vastly experienced team of advocates who represent people in Magistrates Courts on a daily basis.
If you require advice and representation in connection with Magistrates’ Court proceedings please contact us.