Going to Court

Once the decision has been made to charge a suspect with a crime we then have to start preparing the case to go to court.

Our role includes preparing cases for court and presenting those cases in court.

Firstly we have to decide which court the case should be tried in. There are two types of court that we can send cases to, the Crown Court and the Magistrates' court.

Crown Court

Very serious cases are heard at the Crown Court. These are cases that involve serious crimes like: violence, murder, rape, or armed robbery.

Trials at Crown Court are heard by a Judge and Jury

The Judge:

  • Makes sure the trial is fair.
  • Gives the jury instructions about the law.
  • Decides the sentence if the defendant is found guilty.

Find out about the people at a Crown Court Trial:

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Magistrates' court

Over 95% of criminal cases are tried at a Magistrates' court. Trials at Magistrates' court are heard by two or three Magistrates (called a bench) with the help of a legal adviser.

Magistrates are volunteers from the local community who are not paid.

Magistrates decide if the defendant is guilty and pass sentence. They can only give certain types of sentence. If a case is serious and could result in a long prison sentence then the case will be heard at a Crown Court.

Find out about the people involved in Magistrates' Court hearings:

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Youth Courts

Youth Courts are a section of the Magistrates' court. They deal with almost all criminal cases involving young people under the age of 18.

Youth Courts are less formal than Magistrates' courts. The public are not allowed in to watch, but victims can ask to attend if they wish. Gowns and wigs are not worn by the Advocate, the Defence Barrister, the Magistrates or Judges.

Trials at Youth Court can be heard by Magistrates or the District Judge and they have the power to give Detention and Training orders as well as a variety of community sentences.

How do Prosecutors get ready for court?

The Crown Prosecution Service team of Prosecutors, Advocates, Paralegal Officers and Administrative Assistants prepare the case for court.

Crown Prosecutors and paralegals prepare for the court case by writing notes for the Advocate.

These notes include:

  • Details about the crime, saying how we can prove to the court it really happened.
  • What we think the defence lawyer will say.
  • How to show that the defence lawyer's arguments are wrong.
  • Why the trial is in the Public Interest.

Advocates are prosecutors with a lot of experience and exams. They present the case in court.

Every person charged with a crime (defendant) goes to a Magistrates' court first. If the crime is serious the Magistrates' court will send it to the Crown Court for trial.

When Advocates get ready for this first hearing they:

  • Think about the decision that was made when the defendant was charged with the crime.
  • Think about why they were charged with the crime.
  • Look at all the notes and evidence about the case.

The Advocate discusses the case with other professionals like the court's legal adviser, Youth Offending Team, Defence Lawyer, Probation Service.

They try to work out if the defendant will plead guilty to the charge. If they think the defendant will plead guilty they can get Pre-Sentence reports ready for the first hearing. This means that the case can be dealt with much faster.

The Advocate has to send copies of all the evidence in a case to the defence lawyer, including information that might harm the prosecution case, or help the defence case. This is to make sure that the case is fair.

We ask the Witness Care Unit to help support the witnesses before and during the trial.

Witnesses are very important. We work hard to make sure witnesses feel safe and supported.

Find out more about being a witness

What does the Advocate do in court?

Advocates present the case against the defendant to the court. They have to follow the standards set out in the National Standards for Advocacy.

Find out more about the National Standards for Advocacy

Before going to court the Advocate:

  • Reads the case file to make sure they are ready for the trial.
  • Decides what to say in court in their opening statement.
  • Decides what questions to ask the witnesses.
  • If the trial is likely to last longer than a day the Advocate decides in what order to call the prosecution witnesses. This means that the witnesses know which day they are likely to be needed.

The Advocate goes to the court before the trial and:

  • Meets the witnesses and tells them what will happen during the day.
  • Shows the witnesses their statements so they can remember what they said.
  • Talks about the special help that has been arranged if it is appropriate.

Sometimes the Witness Care Officer does this rather than the Advocate.

The Advocate also:

  • Talks to the court in an open and honest way and does the right thing for justice.
  • Wants justice more than they want to be shown to be right.
  • Lets witnesses know if there is a delay and what caused the delay.
  • Acts respectfully to witnesses and defendants.
  • Asks the court to stop the defence lawyer asking questions that are not allowed for the witness.
  • Asks the court if the prosecution witnesses can leave the court when they have finished.
  • Makes sure the evidence is ready to show the court.
  • Makes sure witnesses are ready to tell the court what they saw.
  • At the end of the trial the Advocate helps the Judge or magistrates think about how to punish (sentence) the defendant.
  • If the defendant is found guilty the Advocate reads the Victim's Personal Statement to the court before the defendant is sentenced.

Find out what happened to Jerome when he went to court.

Just Deserts video

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advocateAn Advocate is a Prosecutor with a lot of experience and learning, who speaks in court.
Community Sentence
community sentenceCommunity sentences combine punishment with activities designed to change offenders' behaviour and to make amends. They can include: Compulsory (unpaid) work; Curfew (may involve electronic tagging); Exclusion from certain areas; Drug treatment and testing and Alcohol treatment.
courtA court is a place where decisions are made about the law. A court listens to evidence and decides if a person has done the crime they are accused of.
Crown Court
crown courtThe Crown Court listens to cases against people who are accused of very serious crimes like murder or rape.
defendantA defendant is a person accused of a crime.
judgeThe Judge is the head of the court who decides about things to do with the law.
In some courts the Judge decides if the defendant did the crime.
In other courts the Jury tell the Judge if they think the defendant did the crime.
The Judge makes sure the trial is fair, tells the jury about the law and decides the sentence.
juryA Jury is a group of 12 men and women who listen to a trial at the Crown Court and decide if the defendant did the crime or not.
Magistrates' Court
magistrates courtMagistrates are trained volunteers who deal with about 95% of the criminal cases in England and Wales. Magistrates make decisions in Magistrates' Courts. They usually work in twos or threes (called a bench). They have a legal adviser to help them with the law.
Paralegal Officer
paralegal officerParalegal officers help Prosecutors get cases ready for court.
Pre-Sentence Report
pre-sentence reportA pre-sentence report is a fair report about the defendant. It tells the court: what the defendant did; how serious the crime was; if the defendant feels sorry for what they did; if the defendant might do the crime again; what sentence would be best.
prosecutorProsecutors are lawyers who represent the people. Prosecutors speak in court to accuse a person of a crime.
They show the court the evidence they have found.
They do this to protect the public.
Public Interest
public interestPublic Interest are things that matter to everyone.
When Prosecutors think about the Public Interest they think about the things for and against a prosecution.
Some things make Prosecution more likely, things like: bad crime, using a weapon, hurting someone.
sentenceMagistrates and Judges decide what sentence to give people found guilty of a crime.A sentence is a punishment but it also tries to:
Reduce crime
Make things better - restorative justice
Protect the public
Help the defendant understand what they have done and feel sorry
Stop the defendant doing the crime again
suspectThe suspect is the person the police think did the crime.
victimThe victim is the person the crime was done to.
witnessA witness is a person who sees the crime being done, or sees or knows something that shows who did it.