Lincoln castle, surrounded by the old fortress walls, sitting within well manicured lawns is a truly majestic venue for the administration of justice for the more severe crimes that people are accused of committing. However if it is the first time that you attend the Crown Court either as accused, a witness, a victim or even a juror the Castle venue itself can be daunting and intimidating.

I have approximately 30 years worth of experience in the profession of a case worker in the representation of persons accused of criminal offences; over 10 years of these have been whilst working in Lincolnshire. Even with such experience and day to day dealings with court staff there is still the sense of  nerves during proceedings and I often come across many clients who ask me numerous questions about the procedure and other questions which to some perhaps seem bizarre. Whilst not all questions are perhaps answered below, I hope to provide some insight into what procedures you could face.

The First Hearing

If you are accused of a criminal offence and your case has been transferred to the Crown Court it is likely that your first hearing will be a ‘Plea & Case Management Hearing’ (PCMH) where you will meet with your advocate and have the opportunity to discuss your case and key evidence. Confirmation of your intended plea will be discussed with advice being provided respectively. Your advocate, may be a barrister or a solicitor (HCA) but you shall be given the opportunity to choose your representative, if you so wish. I shall not go into all the different options that are available to each defendant at each stage, these would be discussed with each individual in respect of the individual aspect of each case – every case is different.

A Waiting Game

Perhaps the worst part of appearing before the crown court is the waiting. Attending in the first instance can be nerve racking, waiting does nothing to assist in calming the nerves. When your case is ready to be called on your name will be called over the tannoy system. It is important you

  1. Make sure your phone is switched off, not on silent!
  2. If you have attended wearing a hat, remove it before walking into court,
  3. Dispose of any chewing gum.
  4. Attend sober; yes I have had clients attending drunk, and normally they leave  in a somewhat different style of boxed transport!
  5. Dress appropriate – I do advise against the wearing of certain brand named clothing and in a similar manner advise against perhaps a t-shirt with an emblem of a cannabis leaf!

In the Court Room

Upon walking into Court the Judge more often than not shall already be sat in court. You will be guided to the dock and searched by the security staff, after which you will be asked to remain standing, facing the front of the court. The clerk, who sits in front of the Judge shall ask you to identify yourself, and will then read out the charges, asking if you plead Guilty or Not Guilty. Other than this you will not be expected to say anything else, we are your mouthpiece, acting on your instructions.

The Plea

If it is your intention to plead guilty it is in your interests to do so as soon as possible. It is likely that your advocate, shall ask the Judge for the case to be adjourned in order that the Probation Service can meet with you and prepare a Pre-Sentence Report (PSR) the content of this report will deal with all aspects of your past, the offence, any difficulties that you have which could be addressed with the relevant agencies to support you. In essence the PSR will eventually assist the court in deciding the most appropriate sentence, as often there are many alternatives of punishment rather than just prison. In most cases the request for a PSR will be granted and you shall be bailed to return to court for the sentence hearing.

Should it be that you deny the allegations against you, your appropriate plea will of course be Not Guilty and during the PCMH various orders shall be made in court both for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the Defence.

Dependant on the allegations you will be informed that your trial may be heard on a specific date known as a fixture; in the alternative the trial could be placed in what is termed a Warned List period. This in effect means that your case can be heard on any day within that period, usually within a week. Once again you shall be allowed to leave court although of course there will be further meetings with your solictor to discuss the progress of your case, and in some instances meetings with your advocate.

The Trial

Clearly during the trial, this is no laughing matter, and no matter how much your advocate may cause a witness to change their account through the process of cross-examination, it is of utmost importance that you show no emotion during the process. Each witness shall be watched by the jury, not only in what they say but their demeanour when providing answers. You too shall be watched, not only when you give evidence but throughout the whole proceedings.

Should you require any assistance or advice in respect of criminal allegations brought against you please feel free to contact me.

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