Every criminal case involving an adult defendant will begin in the Magistrates Court. People have to attend the Magistrates Court if they are charged by the police, or if they receive a summons telling them to attend Court. Failing to attend Court when told to may be a criminal offence, and could lead to you being arrested and kept in police custody.
There are 3 types of criminal offence, depending on the seriousness of the crime and which Court can deal with the case:
- Summary Only Offences– These are the lower level offences, and can only be dealt with by the Magistrates Court. The most common summary only offences are common assault, theft of a motor vehicle, s4 Public Order, s.4A Public Order, Criminal Damage, Harassment, and most driving offences. The maximum sentence for most of these offences is 6 months imprisonment.
- Either way offences– These offences can be heard in either the Magistrates Court or the Crown Court. When a case appears in the Magistrates Court, the Magistrates will decide if their sentencing powers are sufficient to deal with the case. The maximum the Magistrates could impose for a single offenceis 6 months imprisonment, so if a case is too serious for them to deal with they will decide the case should be adjourned to the Crown Court.However, even if the Magistrates agree that they can deal with a case, you have a right to elect for your case to be heard by a Crown Court. There are many reasons why you may prefer for a Crown Court to hear your case, but we would recommend you contact us for detailed advice if this is something you are considering.Examples of either way offences include: Theft, burglary, Fraud, ABH, s.20 Wounding, Possession of drugs, Supply of drugs, affray, possession of a bladed article, possession of an offensive weapon, and many sexual offences.
- Indictable Only Offences– These are the most serious offences, and can only be heard in the Crown Court. When the case appears in the Magistrates Court, you will not be asked to enter a plea. All that will happen is the Court will send your case to the Crown Court, and give you a date to appear before a Judge to enter your plea.
I have received a summons to go to court. What should I do?
Call us and we can discuss your case with you. You will need to attend the Court at the time written on the summons. We can attend the Court with you, and after discussing the evidence with you we can speak to the Court on your behalf to represent you.
Do I need a solicitor?
This depends on your type of case, but the best thing to do is call us and ask to speak to one of our solicitors. We will give you clear and simple advice on how serious your offence is, and whether it is something that you will need professional help with.
Whether you admit or deny the offence, we can help you to prepare your case and present it to the Court to get the best outcome possible for you.
How will I pay for a solicitor?
Many people think that instructing a solicitor is an expensive luxury, but this simply is not the case. Most of the clients we represent are able to get Legal Aid, which means they won’t have to pay toward the cost of their case. For a full explanation of how Legal Aid works, and whether you are eligible, please follow the link on this page.
If you are not eligible for Legal Aid, either because you earn above the limits or because the Court decides the case does not pass the interests of justice test, we can offer competitive fees for an outstanding service. If you pay private fees, and you are found Not Guilty, you will be able to apply for your full costs to be recovered. This means we can claim the money back, and will account to you for the money we have recovered for you.
Our private fees are based on 2 things- our standard hourly rates, and the amount of work we anticipate will be required to complete the case. We do not base any fees on any other factors, such as what you do for a living or the type of car you drive. This transparency reflects our integrity, and commitment to providing excellent service.
If you have been quoted private fees for a case, contact us to see if we can offer better value.
I missed a court date, what should I do?
Call us and let us try to help. There is a danger that the Court will have issued a warrant for your arrest. If this has happened, you will need to surrender to the police as soon as you are able to, so you can be produced at the next available Court session.
We can speak to the Court or the Police on your behalf, or arrange to represent you when you next appear in Court.
The worst thing you can do is ignore the situation, as failing to answer your bail is a serious offence and can lead to a prison sentence.