In England and Wales the court system is part of the criminal justice system. The vast majority of cases will be handled by your local magistrates’ court that every major town and city has. If the case is more serious, then you may have to attend a Crown Court that usually has a jury. If you’re under 18 years old you may have to attend a youth court who have specially trained magistrates who deal with young people. However, if the crime is serious this will still go to the Crown Court no matter the age of the offender.
Going to Court
You will be told which court you must attend by letter that is usually sent by the police who are dealing with the case. Don’t forget to take the letter to court with you, as the reception desk will ask to see it. You will be told which courtroom your case is in and where you can sit and wait.
If you are nervous about attending court, one of the best ways of reducing your anxiety is to visit the court you will be attending. Most courts have days when you can walk around the court. And if you want to see how the court works, you can usually sit in the visitors’ gallery and watch a courtroom in action.
The letter you receive about which court you must attend will include its facilities for disabled people. If you have a disability that will cause you problems at the court get in touch as soon as you can. Most courts have a customer services officer. This will give the court time to make additional arrangements for you.
In the Courtroom
You will have been called to the courtroom to give evidence either as a victim, witness or as a defendant (someone that is accused of a crime). You may also have been called as a juror.
The Lawyers in the courtroom will ask you a number of questions. These can be quite detailed so don’t be afraid to ask them to repeat the question if you don’t understand it. Also, if you are in court for a long time, you can request a break. You will also have given a statement to the police. As the court case is likely to be sometime after this, you can ask to see your original statement when you come to court to refresh your memory.
Roughly 450,000 people are randomly chosen to serve on a jury that try serious crimes ranging from theft to murder. Jury’s sit in the High Court and county court, but you could also be called as juror at a coroner’s court.
Note that if you receive a jury duty summons notice and have a disability that may require the court to make additional access available, it is important that you fill in the appropriate section of the form so the jury summoning bureau is aware of your disability.
A jury has to be chosen before it can sit. Even though you have been called for jury service, this doesn’t necessarily mean you will actually sit on a jury. Whether you actually sit on a jury depends on if you are picked when the jury for the trial is being assembled. If you are chosen you will then be sworn in. This means you will take an oath that you can read from a card or repeat from a court usher. You are now an official jury member.
When the trial begins makes sure you remember which court room you are using and the case you’re involved in as this information will be used by the court’s ushers to call you to the courtroom for each day of the trial.
Young People in Court
A courtroom can be a daunting place for young people. In many cases a young person’s written or video evidence will be enough. But with some cases the young person must attend court. In special cases that include some sexual offences and if the witness has a relationship with the defendant are called vulnerable or intimidated witnesses.
These people can give evidence by special means that can include: live video links or from the witness box that has a screen around it. When very young children are in court, lawyers and the judge may not wear their usual wigs and gowns.
You may feel that you know how a court operates from television or films. The reality can often be very different from what you’re expecting. The important thing to remember is that the courtroom is there to serve. Try and attend an open day at your local courtroom where you can try being a judge or lawyer for the day and experience a courtroom for yourself.
Hi there folks, I was convicted of common assault (not guilty) after a close friend took umbrage with me, as she had told me In her words (a big secret) her close lady friend was a peadophile. I never made any suggestion or inference towards this lady as i was leaving the area and did not want to get involved, and obviously not being a police officer had no means of finding out but just wanted to move away nothing else. I was previously assaulted by someone who worked for my close friend that was. police never responsed to my call for help and never took statements from me. They would not let me call a solicitor of mu choice just said I HAD to have the duty solicitor. I am 67 with a serious heart condition and suffered an attack the police would not give me my medication. FACT: these people made false statements to the police and obstructed a police enquiry. I need to find a proper solicitor who can help me take this to the high court?can anyone suggest anything. Ihave the evidence in the form of witnesses that what these people did/said in their statements is false
Maz - 1-Jul-15 @ 1:16 PM
@Matthew - I am afraid I cannot answer your question, as I can't possibly predict how the court case may be played out, as every case must be considered on its own individual facts. It sounds like you really need someone to talk with directly, especially if you are feeling suicidal. I have included a link to the Samaritans helpline here which should help you.
CourtroomAdvice - 1-Jul-15 @ 12:06 PM
I was arrested for, and I plead guilty to a charge of 'disclose private photographs and films with intent to cause distress.' I placed photographs of us having sex on Facebook by creating a false FB account, adding some of her friends as friends, then uploading the pictures to discussions I started, then added more of her friends to the discussion.Her friends also added others to the discussion. The victim was my girlfriend after we broke up. She called me and told me to delete the account. I deleted the account, but she said she could still see the pictures. I tried to login again, but FB had already blocked the account. This all happened from around 3pm to around 11am the next day.(24hrs) I was arrested and admitted guilt and remorse to the police,who recorded it. I was held for 12+ hours in cell, and I am terrified of a jail sentence. Literally.I was given a court date more than a month away. The police released me on bail with conditions not to contact my girlfriend in anyway. I am52 years old, never been arrested for anything in my entire life,this is my first offence. I was depressed and angry, jealous and hurt at the time I committed the offence. I love the victim,but I was blinded by this. I apologized to the victim via viber in writing long before I was arrested or even knew I was going to be arrested.I was suicidal and not thinking clearly. I have been unemployed long term with financial and sexual potency problems too This is probably why( my much younger)girlfriend left me. I have been to a hospital since my arrest and diagnosed with depression and suicidal tendencies. My question: What will happen at the court date? Since I have admitted guilt and remorse to the police already will I immediately be given a sentence? Will I go to jail? Please help me, jail would be a death sentence for me. My lawyer is a Public Defender, she tells me I will probably get Community Service, but how can I rely on her? She has refused to meet face to face, she says it will all be handled on my Court appearance. But she hasn't seen the Prosecutor's papers or even the victim's statement. Neither have I.Will the Prosecution be seeking maximum penalty 2 years ) for me? How can I find out what will happen? I am deeply,deeply sorry for my crime and hurting my girlfriend like this and I am begging for mercy from the Court. Please please please.
Matthew - 28-Jun-15 @ 3:59 PM
Hello - can i defend myself in court for the following:
Driving at 35mph - on a dual carriageway - in a 30mph zone. I don't deny this.
Can I use the following in my defence; & would my testimony be considered fairly in court?
A 42 year clean driving record: no motoring offences.
A 42 year accident free driving record.
I have 9 years NCB.
No criminal convictions of any sort - at all.
I am proud of my clean driving record & would like it to stay that way.
I would say that i seem to be a model citizen: doesn't the above count for anything?
I have received a speed awareness offer and a Conditional offer of a fixed penalty.
All constructive advice that could help me on this matter, would be welcome.