What to do on Arrival at Court - Patterson Law
Arrival At Court
When you arrive at court, you should make sure that you not only report to the Court reception, but also the Court usher responsible for the Court where your case is being heard.
There is usually a display board listing the cases for the day and the Courtroom number they will be heard in. If you can’t find a reception area then be sure to report to the relevant Court Usher.
If you stand near to the Courtroom for your case, you will usually see the Court Usher close by with a list. The Court Usher will advise you if you need to report to anyone else.
Be certain to arrive at Court in plenty of time. A Court won’t wait for you if you are late, and very often there is a good chance that your case will be dealt with promptly.
Because the Court considers that it’s timetable takes priority over yours, be sure to make suitable arrangements to your timetable in case your case overruns. The Court will give very little consideration to your domestic arrangements, so make sure you have cover in place.
What Happens When My Case is Called On?
When it is time for your case to be heard, you must enter the Court and you will be directed where to stand by the Court Usher. The Court Clerk will then ask you to confirm your personal details, name, address and your date of birth.
Next, the Court Clerk will read the driving offences that are alleged against you. By this time, you should hopefully have decided whether you intent to plead guilty or not guilty.
Pleading guilty means that you are admitting these offences.
Pleading not guilty means that you are denying that you committed the offences in question.
What Happens if I Plead Guilty?
When you plead guilty to either some or all of the offences, the Crown Prosecutor will outline the offence details to the presiding Magistrate or District Judge.
The Crown Prosecutor will give an outline of the offences, as well as drawing the Courts attention to any previous convictions for similar kinds of offences.
The Crown Prosecutor will also lodge an application for prosecution costs in relation to your case. The amount of these costs will depend on what point in the proceedings you have pleaded guilty or have been found guilty.
The Magistrate or District Judge will decide whether or not to agree to the Crown Prosecutions cost application. Your financial circumstances are also considered before making a final decision.
Once the Crown Prosecutor has given details of the circumstances of your offences, you will be given the opportunity to explain your version of events to the Magistrates. This is known as ‘giving mitigation’.
During your mitigation you should cover why the offence occurred as well as the circumstances in which it occurred.
If for example the offence is a speeding offence, you should explain that the roads were clear and the weather was good and your speed was caused by a momentary lapse in concentration on your part.
This is your opportunity to think of valid reasons why you committed the offence, as well as explaining to the Magistrates anything that you feel will make them feel sympathetic towards your case.
This is also the point where you should give details of your relevant personal circumstances.
If you are at risk of losing your driving licence this is a good time to explain that your have people who are reliant on you driving them around. (if appropriate). It is also a good idea to bring supporting letters with you to support this mitigation.
It is advisable to bring letters from people that the Court will respect. Character references should cover how long the person has known you, and in what capacity. A character reference from your employer would be beneficial especially if a driving ban would result in you losing your job.
Once the Magistrate has heard from the Crown Prosecution regarding the specifics of your offence and has heard from you with regards to your mitigation, they will make a decision about what sentence to impose. They may well consult with the Court Clerk with regard to appropriate sentencing guidelines.
The Magistrates will also take your personal financial circumstances into account. You will be provided with a form by the Court so that you can provide the necessary details.
The Magistrates will next announce their sentence. If a fine is imposed then you will usually be given time to pay. Depending on the size of the fine and your circumstances this may be weeks or months. The Courts do like fines to be paid as quickly as possible, but if your personal financial circumstances don’t allow for this then they will consider a suitable timeframe for payment to be made.
It is up to you to ask for time to pay when the Magistrates ask you how quickly you can pay.
Many Courts have a fines collections department in the building. If they do and you have agreed to pay the fine in one go then you should make your payment at the collections office before you leave the Court buildings.
The Court Usher will be able to provide you with information about the various fine payment options.
If the Court impose penalty points on your driving licence then these will be added by the DVLA as soon as the Court has notified them.
If the Court disqualify you from driving then you cannot drive home from the Court. Any disqualification begins immediately. If you continue to drive after being disqualified by the Court, then you will be guilty of driving whilst disqualified (the police often catch newly disqualified drivers leaving court).
Driving while disqualified is an imprisonable offence. It is taken very seriously by Magistrates if you breach an Order of Disqualification.
If you are at risk of receiving a driving ban for your offence it is best to make alternative travel arrangements just in case.
If you receive a fine in relation to your driving offence then depending on the point in time when you plead guilty, the fine will be reduced by up to a third. The earlier you admit the offence, the smaller your fine and potential Court costs will be.
What Happens if I Plead Not Guilty?
If you decide to plead not guilty to either one or more offences then you will require a trial. Often the Prosecution will accept a guilty plea to some offences while withdrawing other offences to which you have indicated a not guilty plea.
A defence lawyer will often put forward this proposal on your behalf. You can also suggest this to the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) if you are representing yourself when you attend Court. The downside to this is that you are indicating to the prosecution what you intend to plea in Court ahead of time by stating that you are willing to plead guilty to certain offences.
Once you have pleaded not guilty to a particular offence and the prosecution are not willing to withdraw the offence then a trial will be needed. It is quite normal with road traffic offences for the Court to list trial proceedings without the case being adjourned for a ‘pre-trial review’.
If however your case is complicated then it will be adjourned until a later date in order for a pre-trial review to occur. The Pre-trial review is a hearing where potential witness availability is considered and also which witnesses have to attend court as well as which witness statements are to be used in Court.
At this point, if there are witnesses that say things in their statements that you don’t agree with , you can request that they attend Court so that you can cross-examine their evidence statements.
It is quite unusual for a Court to conduct trial proceedings on the first hearing date. This is because the necessary witnesses, alleged victims, and any relevant police officers won’t be present.
When your case is adjourned for trial, you need to let the Court know which witnesses you intend to call to give evidence on your behalf.
If you employ a Solicitor or Barrister such as ourselves then we will be able to advise you in detail with which witnesses you should call upon. If appropriate we can also provide an ‘expert’ witness to attend and give evidence for you.
An expert witness is somebody with a specific expertise, for a speeding offence it might be speed detection lasers for example.
It is important to attend Court promptly for your trial. Each trial has a specific time slot allocated. You should also make sure that your witnesses also attend.
To commence the trial, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) will give a brief outline of your alleged offence or offences to the presiding Magistrates. The CPS will then call each of their witnesses in turn that they will rely upon in order to prove the case against you.
They may for example call the police officer who originally took the breathalyser sample at the time of your offence. That officer will give his or her evidence with regard to their particular involvement in your case.
Once the CPS has finished asking their witness questions relating to what happened and their knowledge of events to do with your offence/s, you will have the chance to cross-examine the witness. This is your opportunity to ask them questions about what they claim to have done or have seen and this is the point where you should make it clear to them if you think that they are mistaken or have given an incorrect account of the events.
The rules with respect to the laws of evidence and the ways in which witnesses can be cross-examined are quite complex.We can advise you on the best ways to cross-examine your witnesses in order to achieve the best outcome.
When the CPS has finished with all of their witnesses and you have had the opportunity to cross-examine them about their account of the pertinent events surrounding your case, you will then have the opportunity to give evidence to the Court on your own behalf.
When giving evidence you should always outline your account of the events to the Magistrates.
Once you have outlined your account of the events, the CPS will have the opportunity to ask you questions in relation to the offence or offences in question. The Crown Prosecutor will attempt to make you accept responsibility for what they are claiming you have done wrong.
As soon as the CPS have finished asking you questions you will be given a further opportunity to add anything that has arisen from the Crown Prosecutions questioning with relation to your defence.
You will then have the chance to call your witnesses that you have brought to Court to give evidence on your behalf. You can ask your witnesses questions in order to extract their account of events to the Court.
Once you have questioned each witness the Crown Prosecutor will have the opportunity to question them to test their account of events. The CPS will be trying to demonstrate to the Court that you were responsible for the offence.
Once you have finished with your witnesses, you will be asked by the magistrates to make your closing speech. This is your final chance to convince the magistrates to accept your version of events. It is also an opportunity to draw the Magistrates attention towards any law that supports your defence that you are in fact not guilty of the offence.
The closing speech is an important part of your trial and it is often best to have professional representation in that regard.
Once everyone has been heard and you have given your closing speech, the magistrates will deliberate on the evidence they have heard. It is at this point that they will decide if you are guilty or not of the offence.
In order to decide, the Magistrates have to work out whether or not they have been convinced of your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt by the Crown Prosecution.
If you have succeeded in casting a doubt on the Prosecutions evidence in relation to whether you are guilty or not, then the Magistrates should find you not guilty. A not guilty verdict means that you have been acquitted.
If the Magistrates find you not guilty then the case is closed and that is the end of the matter. No Court costs will be given to you.
If you have used a defence lawyer to present your case then on your behalf, the defence lawyer will make an application for costs related to your defence. Magistrates have the authority to make an order in relation to your costs. They may order that you be compensated for all or some of your defence costs.
When we act on behalf of clients we attempt to persuade Magistrates that it is appropriate for you to have all of your incurred costs reimbursed.
Should you be found guilty of the offence then you will be dealt with as outlined above in the ‘What if I plead guilty’ section.
The magistrates will make a decision on your sentence. If you have had a trial and subsequently been found guilty then you will get no credit as you would have done if you had pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity.
This means that if you opt for a trial and are then found guilty you are likely to be fined more than if you had pleaded guilty and avoided a trial.
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Clarke v CPS 2013 EWHC 366 (Admin)
It's not easy to defend a speeding allegation and its becoming increasingly difficult with cases like this.
A new client came to us after being banned by the Magistrates for 6 months. He had accumulated 12 points within 3 years and the Magistrates court banned him for 6 months. The client tried to argue exceptional hardship on his own and the court rejected his argument.
Our client instructed us to represent him at court when he was charged with overloading a hired minibus. He had hired the minibus as he had his extended family visiting for a holiday. At the same time builders were refurbishing his house and asked him if he could help them collect some extra sand and cement. Our client agreed and they went with him to the DIY shop to collect the materials.