A Guide to the Crown Court trial process
Almost all criminal court cases begin in a magistrates' court. Therefore, if you are charged with a criminal offence, a decision will be made on whether your case (during your initial magistrates’ hearing) should remain in the magistrates’ court or be allocated to the crown court. The fact that some offences can be heard in both of these courts can lead to some uncertainty, however, it’s important to understand that a crown court deals with serious criminal cases, such as murder, rape and robbery, as well as appeals against a magistrates’ court conviction or sentence.
Some cases will be heard a crown court after being passed from a magistrates’ court for a trial or sentencing. If you were to plead guilty during your first court appearance, depending on the case and how serious it is, it could be sent to the crown court for the sentencing procedure. That said, if you plead not guilty and your case is one that the magistrates decide they should not deal with, it will be assigned to the crown court.
So to summarise, these are the main types of cases handled by a crown court:
- Indictable-only offences – serious criminal offences like murder, manslaughter, rape and robbery.
- Either-way offences that have been moved from the magistrates’ court. These offences may have been heard in a magistrates’ court but were better suited to the crown court.
- Appeals from the magistrates’ court.
- Sentencing decisions transferred from the magistrates’ court.
What’s the plea and trial preparation hearing?
This is the initial hearing where the defendant is expected to enter a plea to the charges against them. If the defendant enters a plea of “not guilty” the court will proceed to direct the case towards a trial, setting dates for the evidence to be heard and planning any other relevant issues of law.
Understanding the ‘warned list’
Upon deciding a date, the court will list your case to have a "fixture" or your trial will be listed to go into the "warned list". A fixture is a fixed day when your trial will start, whilst the warned list means your case will begin on any day during the ‘warned period’. Generally, there is a two week or a three week "warn period" but if your case does not begin during this period, your case will go into another warn period – normally a few months later. In some complex cases, the court may list the case for a further trial preparation hearing shortly before it’s due to commence, dealing with any legal matters that may need to be resolved.
Understanding the trial process
The defendant will be represented in court by a barrister or a solicitor. The prosecution (the Crown) will also be represented by an advocate, as will any co-defendants in your case, and one of the first tasks for the judge is to rule on any legal arguments put forward by the advocates. Once that’s complete and there are no disagreements, a jury (of 12 people from the public) will be selected.
Once the jury is sworn in, the prosecutor will inform the jury on the details of the case and call prosecution witnesses to provide evidence, which will then be cross examined by a defence barrister. As soon as all of the prosecution witnesses have given evidence, the defendant is heard, followed by the prosecution defence witnesses. The barristers will make their closing statements when all of the evidence has been heard, whilst the judge will summarise the evidence, informing the jury of the relevant law relating to the charges.
Following this, the jury will retire to deliberate over the evidence hear and consider their verdicts before making a decision as to whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty.
If the defendant is found not guilty, they will be discharged from the court and the case is concluded. If the defendant is found guilty, the court can either sentence them immediately or it may be adjourned to prepare reports, or it may be deferred (scheduled for a future date) to see how the defendant behaves during that period. If it is deferred, the defendant will have to come back to court at a later date to receive their sentence.
Will your case be reported in the media?
This is an area of concern for many defendants, and it’s perhaps a bigger concern for those whose cases are being heard in a crown court. It’s difficult to say for certain, however, there may be journalists in court to report on the case. Most courts in the UK do have a press box and there may even be an office in the building where reporters can write up their news coverage. It’s important to understand that the media play an important role in the legal process by allowing the community to see justice being done, whilst serving as a deterrent to others. From a legal standpoint, journalists must report correctly what was said as evidence. We’re unable to say whether your case will be in the media spotlight, however, our clients’ issues are our primary focus and we work tirelessly to deliver the best solution, no matter how complicated a case may be.
Why choose Noble Solicitors to defend you?
Our Criminal Solicitor team is best placed to provide expert support and guidance, strongly defending you, whilst we’re experienced in all manner of criminal cases, including:
- Drugs Crime
- Robbery & Burglary
- Sexual Offences
- Criminal Damage
- Public Order offences
- Violent Offender Offences
To learn more about the criminal court process or to speak to us about how we can defend you or your loved one, please do not hesitate to call us on 07000 81 82 83 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Always Protecting Your Rights.
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