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Do I have to go to court if charged?

Being Charged By The Police

Andrew Moxon (Solicitor) gives expert video advice on: What do I wear to court?; Will I have to speak in court?; What types of offences are there in the UK, and in which court are they dealt with? and more...

Do I have to go to court if charged?

If you are charged with an offence, you have to go to court. You'll be given the time and date of your court hearing by the police. If you do not turn up in court without a reasonable excuse, then you'll be committing a further offence for which you can be fined, imprisoned or both.

Once charged, when will I have to go to court?

You will be given a time and a date to go to court by the police. That will be recorded on your charge sheet, and you will be given a copy of that charge sheet when you leave the police station.

What is the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)?

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is an organisation that prosecutes on behalf of the Crown. The Crown of course is taken to be the head of the state, and therefore, when prosecuted by the Crown Prosecution Service, you are being prosecuted on behalf of the state.

What does the CPS do?

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) not only prosecutes on behalf of the crown, but they also advise the police as to whether they have enough evidence to bring charges against you.

How many times do I have to go to court?

Once charged by the police, the number of times you have to go to court depends on what you are charged with, in which court your case is dealt with and what your pleas are to that particular charge, i.e. whether you plead guilty or not guilty.

What do I wear to court?

You may wear whatever you wish to go to court. However, it may be advisable to wear something smart, as you would wish to create the best impression.

Will I have to speak in court?

If you have a solicitor representing you in court, then it's likely you will only need to say your name, address, and date of birth as well as your plea - i.e. whether you're guilty or not guilty. If you are unrepresented in court, then you will have to represent yourself and you will likely have to speak a great deal more.

What support will I receive when I go to court?

The support you will receive at court largely depends on whether you're represented or not. Clearly, if you are represented and have a solicitor present, then you will be supported by that particular person. You may also have friends or family that come to court with you. This is particularly important if you are aged 17 or under and you are being prosecuted in the youth court, because it is strongly advisable that you have at least one of your parents or guardians present with you. In fact, if you are aged under 16, it is mandatory that you have either your parent or guardian, or another appropriate adult, with you during those court proceedings.

What types of offences are there in the UK, and in which court are they dealt with?

All cases start in the magistrates court. In this country there are three types of offenses, the first offense is called a summary only offense. For example, drunk driving, which can only be dealt with in the magistrates court. Generally the magistrates have a maximum sentence of six months imprisonment. The second type of offense is an either way offense. That is, as is suggested, an offense that can be either dealt with in a magistrates court or at the crown court. Whether it is dealt with at the magistrates or the crown court is either up to you to choose, or for the court, in fact in more serious cases, to say that the case has to be sent to the crown court. The third type of offenses are indictable only offenses, for example, murder. Those offenses are too serious to be dealt with in the magistrates court and have to be sent straight away to the crown court.

Why am I at the Crown Court?

You'll be at the Crown Court if your case is indictable only. That means if the policeman charged you with an indictable only offence (e.g. murder) then your case has to be sent to the Crown Court. If you've been charged with an either way offence, then the magistrates may decide that your case is too serious to be dealt with in the magistrate court and, again, your case will be committed to the Crown Court. Your case could also be committed to the Crown Court if you've been charged with an either way offence and you, yourself, have decided to have your trial in the Crown Court. The last way your case could end up at the Crown Court is if you have pleaded guilty to an either way matter in the magistrates court but the courts have decided it is too serious to be sentenced in the magistrates court.

What is a jury?

A jury are twelve members of the public who in the crown court decide whether you're guilty or not guilty at trial, after you have been charged by police.

Will my case always go before a jury?

Your case will go before a jury if you've been charged with an indictable offence such as murder. Your case is then sent to the crown court and if you plead not guilty you will have a trial before a jury. Alternatively, if your case is an 'either way' offense, which the vast majority of offences are, you may have a trial by jury. If you commit an offence such as theft or assault causing bodily harm and you plead not guilty, you can choose to have a trial at the crown court before a jury. Finally magistrates themselves deem that your case is so serious that it should be dealt with the by the crown court, and you then have a trail by jury.

What is a 'conditional discharge'?

A conditional discharge is a sentence that is given out by the court once you've been found guilty or pleaded guilty to an offence. A conditional discharge is when the court are discharging you, but on the condition that you do not commit an offence within a certain amount of time, normally six or twelve months. If you do commit an offence within that period of time, then you can be re-sentenced for that matter. An absolute discharge is when the court discharges you absolutely once you've either been found guilty or pleaded guilty. This means you are not being punished for the committed offence.

If you wish to have a solicitor to represent you in court, then you can apply for legal aid. You will only be granted legal aid if the court deems it is in the interest of justice for you to receive legal aid and you receive under a certain amount of income. If that is the case you will be granted legal aid. If you are refused legal aid, then the only way you will be able to obtain a solicitor is to pay for one privately.