The criminal justice process can seem very strange to anyone that does not work within the sector. The processes and procedures have gradually developed over hundreds of years, and at times this sense of tradition can make the process even more intimidating.
The criminal justice process usually begins with the police investigating a complaint. They are likely to make enquiries and take statements from witnesses, before speaking to a suspect. If there is enough evidence to take the complaint to court, they will either charge the suspect or ask the court to issue a summons to appear before the court to face the complaint.
For adults, all criminal cases begin in the Magistrates Court, though some offences (such as robbery) are so serious that they can only be heard by the Crown Court. People under the age of 18 will be dealt with by the special Youth Court, which works in a similar way to the adult Magistrates Court.
When you make your first full appearance before the Court, you will be expected to enter a plea to the allegation against you. If you plead guilty, your case may be adjourned for a sentencing hearing if it can’t be resolved on the same day. If you plead not guilty, the case will have to be adjourned for a trial so that the court may hear all the evidence and decide whether you are guilty or not.
Of course no system is perfect, and the criminal justice process is no different. If you are dissatisfied with the outcome of your case you may be entitled to appeal against either the conviction or just the sentence. This is a safeguard to provide confidence that any errors can be corrected.
If you have to attend Court, and are intimidated by the criminal justice process, you need to be represented by a specialist lawyer who can advise you about the case against you, and explain the procedures in a clear way. Contact us to see if we can find an expert criminal defence lawyer who can represent you.