There are three main categories which are used to decide how serious the offence is. If it is a minor offence such as driving without insurance it is called a Summary offence. If it is an offence which is not minor nor serious ,such as common assault, it is called a Triable either way offence. If it is an offence which is very serious ,such as manslaughter, it is categorised under an Indictable offence. In relation to the Magistrates court only Summary and Triable either way offences are heard at this court.
The type of offence committed will determine the type of pre-trial hearing that will take place. All defendants charged with a crime,regardless of the type of offence that they have committed, their first hearing will be the Early Administrative Hearing. This hearing is held in the Magistrates court. The aim of the hearing is to avoid any unnecessary delay when the case does start. The hearing is aimed at discovering three things. These consist of discovering if the defendant wants to apply of legal aid ,whether a request needs to be made for a pre sentence or medical reports and to see if the defendant should be remanded in Custody or granted Bail.
If the crime committed was classified under a Summary offence ,it is possible for the hearing to be dealt with on first appearance but often a postponement will be needed .A pre-trial hearing will decide if you get legal aid,if they need background information from the suspect and if the suspect should be granted Bail or remanded. A pre-trial hearing prevents unnecessary delay which in turn keep costs down. The cost of taking a case to court should correspond to its importance. An indictment is read out to the suspect which highlights the facts of the case and how the defendant pleads. When a defendant wishes to plead not guilty there will almost always have to be an adjournment. One the the main points to be decided on when there is an adjournment is whether the defendant should be remanded or granted Bail. If the defendant pleas guilty they have no right to ask to go to the Crown court. In a Triable either way offence the Early Administrative Hearing is held at the Magistrates court. Where a defendant has been charged with an offence which is a Triable either way offence and pleas not guilty the Magistrates court must carry out a "mode of trial" hearing at which a decision is made as to whether the case will be heard in the Magistrates court or at the Crown court. Under s19 of the Magistrates Court Act 1980 the Magistrates must consider the nature and seriousness of the case. If the offence was an Indictable offence the Early Administrative Hearing is still heard at the Magistrates court however all the pre-trial matters are dealt with by the judge at the Crown court. This is sensible as a serious case should be dealt with a court of proportionate jurisdiction.
In a Summary offence the defendant is asked how he pleas. If he pleas guilty the prosecution (barrister of the victim) then outlines the facts of the case. The defendant is then asked if he agrees with the facts that have been read out. If he does not agree with the facts a separate hearing called a Newton hearing is used to identify the true facts of the case. When the genuine facts of the case have been established the defendants past record is given to court. This is used to see if there is a pattern of offending. This procedure reassures the court does not waste their valuable time on a defendant who has no respect for the Law and its disciplinary actions. Other relevant information including the defendants background and financial stance is taken into account. This has to be done as most Summary offences carry fines. The court may even call in the defendants probation officer to get their opinion. A plea of Mitigation is given be the defendant which is an opportunity for him to justify why he may have committed the…