‘Indictable only’ Offences

‘Indictable only’ Offences

All criminal cases start off in the Magistrates’ Court.  Most offences are either ‘Summary Only’ offences or ‘Either-way’ offences.  Summary only offences can only be dealt with in the Magistrates Court and cannot be sent to the Crown Court.  Either-way offences can be heard in either the Magistrates Court or the Crown Court.  However, more serious cases, such as murder, rape, robbery and conspiracies, can only be dealt with in the Crown Court.  These offences are called ‘Indictable Only’ offences and this fact sheet explains what procedures will be followed.

THE PROCEDURES
Although your first appearance will be at the Magistrates’ Court, the magistrates must simply send your case straight to the Crown Court, unless there are some exceptional circumstances.  You will be advised you if such circumstances arise in your case.

In some cases, although this is now very rare, a ‘Preliminary Hearing’ will then take place in the Crown Court.  You will not be expected to enter a plea at that hearing because your lawyers will not have seen all of the evidence against you.  The judge will give directions about how the case should progress.  He will set time limits as to when the prosecution must serve the evidence against you, for example.

In most cases, the first hearing in the Crown Court will be a Plea and Trial Preparation Hearing (PTPH).  At the PTPH, you will be asked to enter a plea.  You will need help to decide which plea is right for you.  It will depend upon the strength of the evidence against you and what you tell your lawyers about what happened.  You should also get advice about the sentence that you can expect to receive if you plead, or are found, guilty.

Your lawyers are obliged to engage with the Crown Prosecution Service (or other relevant prosecuting agency) in advance of the PTPH in order to discuss the charges and any pleas that might be offered to them.  With that in mind, you will need to give instructions on the evidence in good time and generally at least a week before the hearing.

THE PTPH
If you decide to plead guilty the judge will consider what sentence is appropriate.  He may decide to sentence straight away or he may adjourn the case for reports to be prepared before he can pass sentence.

If you decide to plead not guilty, then there will have to be a trial.  This will be before a judge and a jury.  It is very important that you keep in touch with your lawyers and give them all of the information they ask for to prepare for your trial.  You are their best source of information about what actually happened.

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