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Classification of criminal offences and the courts system

All criminal cases begin in the Magistrates Court, even the most serious such as murder. However the most serious cases will only be in the Magistrates Court for the first appearance.

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Where the case is dealt with depends on a number of factors the most important being the seriousness of the offence.

Classification of criminal cases

There are three categories of cases in the criminal court system:

Summary only offences

These are the less serious offences such as:

  • motoring offences
  • less serious assaults
  • other regulatory offences

We can advise which court is likely to deal with your case.

Either way offences

More serious offences, examples of which are:

  • theft
  • burglary
  • more serious assaults
  • actual bodily harm
  • wounding (not with intent)

With these cases the Magistrates have to decide if it is too serious for them to deal with, if their sentencing powers are sufficient should you plead or be found guilty. Should they decide that their powers are sufficient then you will have the choice of taking your trial in the magistrates court or in front of a jury in the Crown Court.

There are a lot of factors to be taken into account in making this decision. We will advise of the best court for your particular case to be heard in. Should you want to try to keep the case in the Magistrates Court we can put your case to the court when the decision is made.

Indictable only offences

These are the more serious offences including:

  • rape
  • murder  

These cases have the first hearing in the magistrates court. Often with these cases the police have refused to grant bail to court and the first hearing is often from custody.

24 hour police station advice arrested

In these cases you need a skilled advocate to make an application for bail on your behalf. There is often work to be done before the hearing to prepare for the bail application such as negotiating with the prosecutor as to what conditions they may be prepared to accept.

We will deal with all this for you and make the application to the court for bail and for the representation order to cover the cost of your representation in both Magistrates and Crown courts.

In these cases you will be in the Crown court 7 days after your first appearance in the lower court. Our Crown court section will ensure you have a barrister for that first hearing if necessary.

Follow the navigation on the left for more specific information on different types of crime.

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Our lawyers offer legal advice and representation at court or the police station on a private or legal aid basis. Legal aid is available in some areas of law only. Please see our pages on legal aid for more advice. We offer a free initial consultation in some areas of law. Personal Injury compensation claims can be conducted on a 'no win no fee' basis.