Pre Trial Procedure in Criminal Cases

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Pre Trial Procedure in Criminal Cases

Chapter 9

9.1 Pre Trial Hearing

  • All criminal cases go first to Magistrates.
  • Minor offences can be dealt with if:
  • Plead guilty.
  • Is present/do not want legal representation.
  • Most driving offences pleaded by post.

9.1.1 Categories of Offences

  • Type of offence affects number of pre trial hearings.
  • Criminal offences divided into three main categories:

  1. Summary Offences
  1. Least serious
  2. Always tried in magistrates
  3. Nearly all driving offences / Common assault / Criminal damage up to £5,000

  1. Trialable Either way Offences
  1. Middle range of crime.
  2. Theft / Assault / ABH.
  3. Tried either in magistrates of crown court.

  1. Indictable Offences
  1. Most serious crimes.
  2. Murder / Manslaughter / Rape.
  3. Must be tried in Crown Court.
  4. First hearing held in Magistrates.

Plea before venue

  • First stage in deciding where a trial either way offence is held is called a plea before venue.
  • Defendant asked guilty / not guilty. If pleads guilty automatically heard in magistrates but can be sent to Crown for sentencing.

Mode of Trial

  • Where defendant pleads not guilty decision has to be made: crown / magistrates.
  • This is called a mode of trial procedure.
  • Even if going to crown, pre trial matters still dealt with in magistrates.

9.1.2 Pre Trial Procedure in Cases to be Tried in Magistrates

  • Cases can be dealt with on first appearance
  • Usual for it to take longer
  • CPS hasn’t got all information needed for case
  • Defendant wants legal advice
  • Magistrates want pre sentence report on guilty plea
  • When not guilty plea nearly always adjournment as witnesses will have to be called
  • Main point on not guilty plea is whether to grant bail.

Early Administrative Hearings.

  • To save unnecessary delays first hearing is now an EAH.
  • This can be dealt with by one magistrate or a court clerk.
  • Done to determine if legal aid is wanted and eligible.
  • Requesting pre sentence or medical reports if appropriate.
  • Deciding if remanded on bail or not.
  • Clerk has limited powers here. Cannot change conditions if bail been previously granted.
  • The use of EAH was suggested by Narey report. “reducing delay in criminal justice system” wait shortened from 85 days to 30 from charged to completion in magistrates.

9.1.3 Cases Going for Trial at the Crown Court

Triable either way cases

  • For these there’ll be further hearings at magistrates for plea before the venue and mode of trial to take place.
  • If it goes to crown a committal proceeding by magistrates will check there is sufficient evidence to send case to trial.

Indictable offences

  • Committal proceedings for indictable offences ended by crime and disorder act 1998.
  • As a result: since Jan 2001 indictable offences straight to crown court after early admin hearing at magistrates.
  • All other pre trial matters are dealt with by judge at crown court.
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9.2 Bail

An important pre trial matter is whether to grant bail. A person can be released on bail any point after being arrested.

9.2.1 Police power to grant bail

  • May release suspect while further inquiries are made. Must return at given date.

  • Police can give bail to defendant charged with offence. In this case he is bailed to appear before magistrates on a certain day.
  • Decision is under sec 38 of Pace by custody officer.
  • Bail can be refused if: name and address is thought to be false / cannot be discovered.
  • ...

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