Pre-trial Procedure in Criminal Cases

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The Prosecuter

  • CPS
  • Revenue and Customs (haven't paid tax; can make you bankrupt)
  • RSPCA
  • Trading Standards-in breach of
  • Private individual-if CPS decide not to prosecute-Stephen Lawrence case
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Standard of Proof

  • Beyond reasonable doubt-criminal cases
    • if any doubt, must acquit defendent
  • Balance of probabilities-civil cases
  • Some exceptions:
    • diminished responsibility (has to be proven by D)
    • insanity (has to be proven by D)
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Summary Offences

  • Least serious
  • Mags Court
  • Driving Offences
  • Assault and battery
  • Criminal Damage-less than £5000
  • Fine up to £5000
  • Max sentence-6 months imprisonment
    • unless more than 1 crime 
      • All tried at Mags court but once found guilty, sent to Crown Court for sentencing
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Triable either way Offences

  • Middle range
  • Theft
  • ABH (Assault occassioning ABH)
  • D has a choice where they will be tried
  • Magistrates or Crown Court
  • Higher acquital rate in Crown Courts
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Indictable Offences

  • Most serious crimes
  • Murder
  • Manslaughter
  • Rape
  • Crown Court (before a Judge and a Jury)
  • Power to impose max sentences
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IMPORTANT

  • All cases start in Mags Court
  • Usually case will be adjourned uness D pleads guilty and is legally represented or does not want such representation
  • Special procedure for driving  offences
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Pre-trial procedure-Summary Offences

  • Mags Court
  • 98% of all criminal trials take place in Mags Court
  • Bench of 3 lay magistrates (not qualified) or a District Judge (Magistrates' Court) (qualified, hears more serious and complex cases; gets paid)
  • Decide Verdict
  • Sentence
  • Reports (previous convictions, health etc)
  • Custody or bail-decided before trial
  • Plea in mitigation-from defense lawyer-persuade sentence should be lower than tariff
  • If D pleads not guilty there will be an adjournment
  • Bail or custody
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Early Administrative Hearing

  • Single magistrate or clerk of the court 
  • Eligibility for legal aid cosidered (state pays all or some of your legal costs)
  • Request for pre-sentence or medical reports (prepared by probation service)
  • Bail or custody
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Pre-trial Procedure-Triable Either Way

  • Plea before venue
  • If D pleads not guilty then 'mode of trial' proceedings- Mags or Crown court.
  • First Mags decide if prepared to accept jurisdiction
    • Factors they consider:
      • nature and seriousness of case
      • powers of punishment
      • representations of prosecution and defence
  • Complex cases should be sent to Crown Court
  • S19 Magistrate's Court Act 1980:
  • Cases involving complex quesitions of fact or law should be sent to the crown court other relevant factors which may make a case more suitable for trial at Crown Court include: where there was a breach of tru by D where the crime was committed by an organised gang, where amount involved is more than twice the amount what magistrates can fine D
  • rare cases: Attorny-General, Solicitor-General or Director of Public Prosecutions is the prosecuter, the magistrates must (S19(4) of MCA 1980) send case to Crown Court if that is what Prosecution wants. In other cases, prosecution's wishes are just part of the matters to be considered by magistrates before they decide whether they're prepared to hear the case of whether it should be tried at Crown Court
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How does it work? (Either way offences)

PLEA BEFORE VENUE - D is asked what they plead

GUILTY                                                                or                                                    NOT GUILTY

Mags hear facts & decide if                                                             Mode of Trial hearing-decide if

sentncing powers are sufficient                                                        have jurisdiction to hear case

If suffienct will sentence                                                    ACCEPT                            REFUSE

If not: send to crown court                                      D elects place of trial             Sent to Crown

 

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D's election

  • If Mags accept jurisdiction then D right to chose where trial held
  • Must be informed of right of mags to send to Crown Court (trial by jury) for sentencing
  • Most D's choose trial by Mags

Reasons for chososing trial by Jury

  • D's more likely to be acquitted
  • D's more likely to recieve legal aid
  • Lawyers more experienced
  • Time spent remanded incustody deducted from a prison sentence

Disadvantages of trial by jury

  • Longer wait for trial
  • Higher cost
  • If found guilty Crown Court have greater sentencing powers
  • More intimidating
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Pre-trial Procedure-Indictable Offences

  • FIrst hearing in Mags Court to decide whether D wants to apply for legal aid and issues of bail
  • Case then sent to crown court
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