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Court Proceedings

What happens if I am summoned to a court hearing? The court process explained.

Summons to answer a charge at a Magistrates Court hearing:

Where the decision is made to prosecute, a Summons to answer the charge and all associated papers, including a copy of the inspector’s report and all relevant statements, will be served on the person reported. The Summons will show the place, date and time of the listed Court hearing and any claim for compensation and costs being made on behalf of the rail company. If a person receives notice to attend a Magistrates Court hearing the summons will state the exact charge being alleged and the relevant Act or Byelaw under which the charge is laid. A person who receives a Summons in such cases may choose to deal with the matter personally, or to seek legal advice.

Pleading ‘Guilty':

If the charge is not denied and the person being reported accepts the statement made by the person making the report as an accurate record of the incident, the person being summonsed may enter a written ‘Guilty’ plea and ask the Court to dispose of the case in their absence. This means that the Magistrates will be able to give credit for the plea and determine any penalty without the defendant having to attend Court. The Magistrates may also decide whether or not to award any costs & compensation. It is of course perfectly in order to attend and put the plea in person if so desired.

Pleading ‘Not Guilty':

If the charge, or any part of it, is denied then the correct plea should be ‘Not Guilty’ and the Court must be advised of this within the time scale indicated. This can be done in writing, by letter, or submission of the duly signed plea indication form supplied with the Summons pack, or by attending the Court on the date advised and putting the plea in person. Where a ‘Not Guilty’ plea is entered a trial is necessary and the matter will be adjourned to a suitable later date for both sides to prepare their case, to bring all evidence and to warn any witnesses to attend. A general, but brief, outline of the process at any trial is:- the Clerk to the Justices will put the charge to the defendant, and if it is answered ‘Not Guilty’ the prosecutor will outline the case against the defendant, produce the prosecution witness/es and that witness or witnesses will give evidence of the allegation reported. The defence will then be able to cross-examine the prosecution witness/es in turn. The prosecutor may be given an opportunity to re-examine the witness and close the case for the prosecution. Following this, the defendant (or legal representative) will put the case for the defence, calling witnesses, who may be cross-examined as necessary. If the defendant chooses to give evidence personally, the prosecutor will have the opportunity to cross-examine the defendant. The defence will then be able to make any relevant statement and sum up their case. Having heard the case from both sides, the Magistrates will consider their decision. The Magistrates will return to Court and announce their verdict.