Criminal Offences - Elite Solicitors Ltd

The Court Process

Facing a court case can be very daunting, so it is best to be prepared by having some knowledge of court processes.

If you are not sure what to expect, you can always contact Our expert team beforehand.  We can explain the procedures of the court.

Magistrates’ courts

All criminal cases start in a magistrates’ court. Cases are heard by either 2 or 3 magistrates or by a District Judge. There is no jury in a magistrates’ court.

A magistrates’ court normally handles cases known as ‘summary offences’, eg:

  • most motoring offences
  • minor criminal offences
  • being drunk and disorderly

It can also deal with some of the more serious offences, eg:

  • burglary
  • drugs offences

These are called ‘either way’ offences and can be heard either in a magistrates’ court or a Crown Court. Magistrates’ courts always pass the most serious crimes to the Crown Court, eg:

  • murder
  • rape
  • robbery
  • conspiracy

These are known as ‘indictable only offences’.

Being kept in custody or granted bail

In some cases, the magistrates court decides if you should be kept in custody or granted ‘bail’, and let out with conditions – eg to keep away from named places or people, or without conditions.

This may happen if another court hearing is needed or if the court needs more information before passing sentence, or if your case is passed to the Crown Court for trial or sentencing.

Sentences a magistrates’ court can give

The court can give punishments including:

    • up to 6 months in prison (or up to 12 months in total for more than one “either way” offence)
    • a fine of up to £5,000
  • a community sentence, like doing unpaid work in the community

They can also give a combination of punishments – eg a fine and unpaid work in the community.

If the court decides your sentence should be for longer than 6 months, it can pass your case to the Crown Court for sentencing.

Appealing a sentence or conviction

If you disagree with the magistrate court’s verdict, you may be able to appeal. Our team can give you information on how to appeal.

 Youth courts

A youth court is a special type of magistrates’ court for people aged between 10 and 17. A youth court has either 3 magistrates or a district judge there is no jury in a youth court. Your parent or guardian must attend a Youth Court with you if you’re under 16 or if you’re 16 to 17 and they’re given a court order

Youth courts are less formal than adult courts, eg: members of the public are not allowed in to the court (unless they get permission) and you are called by your first name

A youth court deals with cases like:

  • theft and burglary
  • anti-social behaviour
  • drugs offences

For serious crimes, like murder or rape, the case starts in the youth court but will be passed to a Crown Court.

Sentences a youth court can give

The court can give a range of sentences including community sentences or Detention and Training Orders carried out in secure centres for young people.

Appealing a sentence

If you disagree with the court’s verdict, you may be able to appeal. Our team can give you information on how to appeal.


If the court decides to put you on remand it means you will go to prison until your hearing at a magistrates’ court.

If you are under 18 you will be taken to a secure centre for young people, not an adult prison.

You will probably be put on remand if:

  • you have been charged with a serious crime, eg armed robbery
  • you have been convicted of a serious crime in the past
  • the police think you may not go to your court hearing
  • the police think you may commit another crime while on bail
  • you have been given bail before and not stuck to the terms

When you attend your hearing at a magistrates’ court, you might be put on remand again until your trial begins, even if you were previously given bail.

Crown Court

Types of cases the Crown Court deals with

A Crown Court deals with serious criminal cases, such as murder, rape, robbery and conspiracy as well as all either way offences that have been passed up from the Magistrates’ or Youth courts for trial or sentencing. It also deals with appeals against a magistrates’ court conviction or sentence.

A Crown Court:

  • normally has a jury – which decides if you’re guilty or not
  • has a judge – who decides what sentence you get.

Sentences a Crown Court can give

A Crown Court can give a range of sentences including:

  • community sentences
  • prison sentences – including life sentences

Appealing a sentence or conviction

If you disagree with the Crown Court’s verdict, you may be able to appeal. Our experienced team of advocates can advise you on the merits of an appeal.

Do you need us to represent you? Contact us for a consultation