The Magistrates’ Court is the court every individual charged with a criminal offence first has to appear before after being charged with a criminal offence at the police station.
The first hearing in the Magistrates’ Court is called a ‘first appearance’, all serious ‘indictable only’ offences are sent by way of a ‘transfer hearing’ to the Crown Court, examples of ‘indictable only’ offences include murder, manslaughter, rape and robbery.
The Magistrates’ Court has the power to deal with ‘summary only offences’ which are offences that can only be heard in the Magistrates’ Court such as criminal damage and simple common assault. These offences are the most minor of offences. The Magistrates’ Court may also deal with ‘either way’offences. These are offences that could be heard in the Magistrates’ Court or the Crown Court and are usually medium-level on the seriousness scale. Examples of either way offences include theft, Actual Bodily Harm (A.B.H) and burglary.
The Magistrates’ Court conducts cases in front of a District Judge or a bench of three lay Magistrates’ who have the power to impose a custodial sentence of a period between five days and six months for one offence. However, if the defendant appears at the Magistrates’ Court for two or more offences, the Magistrates’ Court has the power to impose a sentence of up to twelve months imprisonment.
If you have been charged with an offence and are due to appear before any Magistrates’ Court in England or Wale then please contact us immediately for effective representation and preparation of your defence.