Initial Appearance Before a Magistrates’ Court

Regardless of the offence alleged, you will always appear first in the Magistrates’ Court. The nature and seriousness of the offence will determine where your case is heard thereafter. 

There are three categories of offence and each varies in terms of which court will continue to deal with your case:

  • Summary only offences - this is the least serious offence that a defendant can be tried for and will take place in the Magistrates’ Court
  • Either-way offences - this type of offence can be tried in either the Magistrates’ Court or the Crown Court; however, the penalty for the same offence can vary depending on where the case is heard
  • Indictable only offences - this is the most serious offence and can only be tried before a Judge and jury in the Crown Court on an indictment

At the first hearing, the court clerk will ask you to confirm your name and address. What happens next will depend on the type of offence you are facing.

Summary offences

The initial hearing for a summary only offence will involve the legal advisor at court reading out the charge and asking whether you or your business plead guilty or not guilty.

Not-Guilty Plea

  • If a not-guilty plea is made, the case will be adjourned for the trial. 
  • A preparation for the trial form will be completed by both the defence and prosecution, confirming the issues for trial and witness requirements. A trial date will also be set.
     

Guilty Plea

  • If a guilty plea is made, dependent on whether a pre-sentence report is required and other issues, the court will hear from the prosecution and defence and a decision will be made as to what sentence you or your business should receive.

Either-way offences

The initial hearing for an either-way offence will involve the legal advisor at court reading out the charge and asking whether you or your business pleads guilty or not guilty.

Not-Guilty Plea

If a not-guilty plea is made, the court will hear from the prosecution and defence in relation to where the trial should take place.

The court has two options:

  • decline jurisdiction and direct that the case be sent to the Crown Court
  • accept jurisdiction and require the defence and prosecution to complete a preparation for trial form, confirming the issues for trial and witness requirements. A trial date will also be set. 

However, if the Magistrates’ Court accepts jurisdiction, you can still elect to have your trial before a jury and your case will then be sent to the Crown Court.
 

Guilty Plea

If a guilty plea is made, dependent on whether a pre-sentence report is required and other issues, the court will hear from the prosecution and defence and a decision will be made as to what sentence you or your business should receive.

The Magistrates’ Court only has the power to give you a maximum custodial sentence of 12 months (six months for only one offence).

If the Magistrates’ Court decides its sentencing powers are insufficient, you will be sent to the Crown Court for sentencing. 
 

Indictable-only offences

Some examples of indictable-only offences include murder, manslaughter, conspiracy, rape and robbery. At the initial hearing for an indictable-only offence, the legal advisor at court will read out the charge that you face and ask whether you plead guilty or not guilty - you can also refuse to make a plea at this time.

Not-Guilty Plea

If a not-guilty plea is made or you or your business refuse to make a plea, the case will be sent to the Crown Court. 

Guilty Plea

If you or your business plead guilty, your case will be sent to the Crown Court for a sentence hearing.

Talk to Us

If you have been accused of committing a crime, our expert business and criminal defence solicitors are able to provide advice and representation throughout and at any point of the criminal justice process.

To speak to a solicitor about your case, call us today on 0345 872 6666 or fill in our online enquiry form to request a call back.
 

Let us contact you

*
*
*
*
*
View our Privacy Policy