This letter sets out the service we can provide you with and important information about the court procedure. It also explains our obligations to you and your obligations to both us and the court. This document should be read in conjunction with our Terms of Business that we have provided to you. Please take the time to consider the entirety of the document carefully. If there are any matters that you wish to discuss with us then please contact the person with conduct of your case.
WHAT SERVICES ARE AVAILABLE TO ME?
We are recognised as specialists in criminal defence work and provide legal advice, assistance and representation under the terms of the Criminal Defence Services Contract. Once funding is in place, we will provide you with a full criminal defence service from police interview through, when necessary, to the Court of Appeal, including representation at the Magistrates’ Court, Youth Court and Crown Court. We have access to Barristers, Private Investigators, and Forensic Scientists, all selected for their experience and expertise.
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We always endeavour to ensure that your case is dealt with by a suitably qualified person. We will assess this having regard to the nature and complexity of your case and the likely sentence you may face if convicted. Occasionally we will instruct approved agents to act on your behalf.
In order to ensure continuity of representation, should your case progress to the Crown Court we will generally instruct one of our experienced Barristers or Solicitor-Advocates to represent you. Should you wish to be represented by a particular team member in the Crown Court, or any other advocate, please discuss this with us and we will try to accommodate your request.
HOW LONG WILL MY CASE TAKE?
If you are on police bail, this will depend entirely upon the Police/Crown Prosecution Service. We have no influence over the length of police bail. If your case is before the Court, the time scale will depend greatly upon whether your plea is guilty or not guilty, whether the case is dealt with in the Crown Court or stays in the Magistrates/Youth Court, and also how complicated the case is. Generally, a guilty plea before the Magistrates Court will usually result in a final hearing within 3 weeks of your first appearance. A guilty plea in the Crown Court will usually result in a final hearing within 12 weeks of your first appearance. A not guilty plea will mean there will have to be a trial. A trial in the Magistrates Court will usually result in a final hearing 12 to 18 weeks after your first appearance. A trial in the Crown Court may take between 3 to 9 months from your first appearance.
WHAT PLEA SHOULD I ENTER?
If you have been charged or summonsed to appear in Court, you will be expected to enter a plea: Guilty or Not Guilty. We will always take time to advise you as to the appropriate plea in your case once we have considered the prosecution evidence and taken your instructions. If you have not committed an offence then of course you should plead not guilty. If you enter a Not Guilty plea, the case will be adjourned for a trial. If however, you wish to plead guilty because you have committed an offence then you ought to do so at the first possible opportunity as the Court will reduce the sentence by up to one third. The discount on sentence operates on a sliding scale – the sooner you plead guilty the greater the credit you will receive. The court will take into account any factors of mitigation including your personal circumstances, admissions to the police and your remorse.
WHICH COURT WILL HEAR MY CASE?
All offences which start their life in the Magistrates Court fall into three distinct categories:
These are the most serious criminal offences and include Murder, Robbery and offences of Conspiracy. These offences can only be dealt with in the Crown Court and as such, if your case is indictable only it will usually be sent to the Crown Court on your first appearance before the Magistrates Court. You can only enter a plea (either guilty or not guilty) before the Crown Court and your trial will take place before the Crown Court too.
“Either Way” Offences
These categories of cases can be heard either in the Magistrates Court or the Crown Court. They include offences such as Theft, ABH Assault, and Handling Stolen Goods. If you plead not guilty or alternatively indicate no plea to an either way case before the Magistrates, following representations from the prosecution and the Defence, the Magistrates will decide upon the venue after considering the seriousness of the case against you. This procedure is known as Allocation. The Magistrates will then decide whether or not they can hear the case or whether, because the case is too serious to be dealt with by Magistrates, they ought to send you to the Crown Court for trial.
If the Magistrates agree that they can hear your case you still have a choice as to whether or not your case is heard in the Crown Court or the Magistrates Court. If you choose to have your trial in the Magistrates Court then your case will be adjourned, usually straight to the trial.
If the Magistrates decide that they cannot hear your case, or if you choose a Crown Court trial, they will commit your case to the Crown Court.
If you plead guilty to an Either Way Offence, it is then possible for Magistrates to deal with your case but they do still retain the option to send you to the Crown Court to be sentenced there if they feel their powers of sentence are insufficient. Alternatively they may decide to sentence you in the Magistrates Court and will often adjourn your case for the preparation of a pre-sentence report. This report is prepared by the Probation Service and takes into account factors of mitigation which our representative will then advance on your behalf.
These are the least serious matters and can only be tried before the Magistrates Court. They include Common Assault, Disqualified Driving and motoring document offences. Although these offences are the least serious of the categories, many of them still carry the potential of imprisonment if you are convicted. However, if you plead not guilty to a Summary Offence, you will be tried in the Magistrates Court before the Magistrates or a District Judge.
BAIL / FAILING TO ATTEND COURT
If you are granted bail and you fail to attend Court on the date and time directed you will be committing an offence of failing to surrender. This is punishable by way of a fine and/or a term of imprisonment of up to 6 months. The same will apply if you arrive at Court late without a reasonable excuse.
If you are ever in a position where you are ill and unable to attend Court or have any other exceptional reason why you cannot attend Court then you ought to contact us as soon as possible with a valid medical certificate stating you are unfit to attend Court. The certificates stating that you are unfit to attend work are often not accepted by the Court.
If you have been granted bail with conditions imposed either by the Police or the Court you have to abide by those conditions. Failing to do so can lead to you being arrested for breach of those conditions and placed in custody before the Court. You would risk being remanded in custody until the conclusion of your case. If you wish to apply to vary bail conditions, please advise us at the earliest opportunity and we will make the necessary application to the Court.
Committing offences whilst subject to bail is considered to be an aggravated feature and may also jeopardise your liberty for the duration of the case.
If you are remanded in custody we will consider whether any appeal as to bail lies and discuss this with you at our visits in custody.
We will always advise you as to the appropriate starting sentence and mitigation available in your case. Either following a plea of guilty or of conviction after trial a Court may order a pre-sentence report before sentencing takes place. This may take the form of a “Fast Delivery Report” (done on the day with a specific sentence in mind) or where the case is adjourned to another day to allow you to see the Probation Service in the intervening period for a longer appointment.
When preparing the report the Probation Officer will be assessing a number of factors including the risk of re-offending and any other danger to the public at large. They will ask a number of questions about the offence, your previous convictions and character and will want to ascertain how you feel about the victim or victims affected by your criminal activity. Everything you discuss with the Probation Service will be incorporated in the pre-sentence report including matters which are detrimental to you as well as in your favour. It is important you bear in mind that the Probation Officer is not bound by confidentiality and any admissions you make beyond that to the current charge which you face could have a serious affect upon you on sentence.
It is most important that you keep any appointments sent to you by the Probation Service as failure to do so means that the Court could sentence you without one and your lack of cooperation may mean that you receive a harsher sentence than you might otherwise have done, including a custodial sentence.
You may want to appeal against either conviction and / or sentence. We will always provide you with advice on whether you can appeal and what your chances of success on appeal would be.
APPOINTMENTS AND INSTRUCTIONS
At Allen Hoole we remain committed to providing you with a very high quality service. To be at our most effective we need you to remain in contact with us at all times at to inform us of any changes to your address or telephone number.
The Magistrates Court or Crown Court will want to take charge of the proceedings and give directions on how your case is conducted. In addition, all Courts are actively involved with case management and expect us to update them of any changes in your case. we may be obliged to inform the Courts of any failure by you to keep appointments or to provide instructions. This may harm your defence at trial, in that the jury may, for example be asked to draw an inference from your failure to serve details of your defence, or from your failure to call a witness of whom we were unaware because you did not advise us. It is most important that you remain in contact with us. In some extreme cases your bail may be put at risk if you fail to attend your appointments.
Failure to keep your appointments could seriously jeopardise your case and ultimately lead to us listing your matter before the Court to inform them of your non-cooperation. This is a last resort but is one demanded of us by the Courts.