Magistrates Court representation
All criminal cases from the most serious murders and firearms offences to the minor thefts and driving offences start in the Magistrates’ Court. Your first appearance will be there and it is advised to have representation at the Magistrates’ Court, regardless of the seriousness of your case.
If you instruct us, Sperrin law will provide you with an experienced barrister or solicitor to represent you at your Magistrates’ Court hearing. At the first hearing you will have a conference with your lawyer who will go through the prosecution papers with you. They will provide you with advice on the strength of the evidence, the likely sentence if found guilty and whether you should plead guilty or not guilty. Depending on the case, they may also advise you on the advantages and disadvantages of a Crown Court or Magistrates’ Court trial.
The first appearance at the Magistrates’ Court is also an opportunity to apply for bail. The barrister or solicitor representing you will ask about your personal circumstances and apply for bail on your behalf.
Crown Court Representation
There are two ways in which a case ends up in the Crown Court. The most serious cases will be sent straight up to the Crown Court. For the less serious cases, the Magistrates’ may decide that the Crown Court is the most appropriate venue, or you may elect to have your case heard in the Crown Court.
The first hearing in the Crown Court is called the Plea and Trial Preparation Hearing (PTPH). At the PTPH, the Defendant and any codefendants will normally be arraigned (asked to enter a guilty or not guilty plea). If the plea is guilty, a date will be set for the sentencing hearing. If not guilty, a timetable will be set for the case and usually a trial date. This will cover the deadlines for the prosecution to serve their evidence and for the Defendant to serve their Defence Case statement.
There are other kinds of hearings in the Crown Court, for example a Bail application, a Pre Trial Review or a Mention to deal with any miscellaneous matters such as disclosure or applications to exclude evidence.