If you have attended the police station and been charged with an offence, you will have received a charge sheet requiring you to attend the magistrates court on a specified date and at a specified time. Alternatively, you may have received a letter in the post requiring your attendance. This is called a requisition.
We will ask you for your National Insurance number and details of your financial circumstances. It is helpful if you are able to provide us with the charge sheet or postal requisition.It is also a good idea to obtain proof of wages or salary in the form of payslips or bank statements as soon as possible, together with proof of outgoings, in particular rent. If you are in receipt of benefits, we will need to know the type of benefit that you are on and to determine whether it is a qualifying benefit or not. It is a good idea to have proof of how much benefit you are in receipt of, if it is not a qualifying benefit.
The date you have been given to attend court will involve you being asked to indicate to the court whether you are guilty or not guilty of the offence or offences with which you are charged. No prosecution witnesses will be in attendance on this date and no trial will take place. If you decide to enter a guilty plea, the magistrates or district judge may proceed to sentence. Sometimes the court will ask you to see a probation officer, who will make a recommendation as to sentence.
If you decide to enter a not guilty plea, your case will be set down for a trial on a future date, if the offence or offences are summary only or if magistrates decide that your case is suitable for trial in the magistrates court having regard to the nature of the case and its complexity and to whether the courts sentencing powers are sufficient.
At court, if you decide to plead not guilty and the trial will take place in the magistrates court, we can complete a preparation for effective trial form on your behalf.
If the offences can only be heard in the Crown Court or if the magistrates decide to send your case to the Crown Court, your case will be adjourned to a Pre-trial Preliminary Hearing in the Crown Court. This will be a first hearing in the Crown Court and again no prosecution witnesses will be in attendance and no trial will take place. At a Pre-trial Preliminary Hearing, you will be asked to formally indicate whether you are guilty or not guilty of the offence or offences and the Crown Court judge will make directions to ensure that the trial takes place on a specified date and that there is no delay in the matter being resolved. You will be given either a fixed date for trial or your case will go into a warned list. This means that you should expect your trial to take place during a specified two-week period in the future. During that two-week period, you will be notified the working day before that your trial is to start.