So the day in Crown Court has arrived. To get to Crown Court you will already have had your day in Magistrates Court, more likely several days of short hearings getting the case adjourned to a new date before finally getting it referred to Crown Court.
Or, your case might have been sent to Crown Court for sentencing. This is usually because the magistrates believe it needs a longer sentence than they can give.
Some cases must go to Crown Court for determination. These range from murders to cases involving breach of trust.
For your day in court prepare yourself well. Talk to your solicitor a day or two before your appearance and read through the case against you and your defence. Put on a smart appearance - your best suit perhaps but certainly a clean shirt and tie. The jury ordinary people and impressions matter. Talk of "he looked guilty" may be nonsense but it is an anecdote which may have some basis of fact. But, your smart appearance will make you feel better and confident.
Take time the night before to get your clothes ready, your shoes cleaned and have your transport arrangements agreed. Avoid alcohol and drugs as you need a clear head for your day in court. Get up early and bath or shower then get dressed ready for court. Take your papers with you and get to court on time. Do not take your mobile phone with you, or if you do turn if off as you enter the court. It is likely that there is a no-smoking policy in court - respect that otherwise you can face additional penalties for contempt of court.
On arrival at court you will pass through a metal detector and you might be searched. You will have to hand over any banned items including knives and other sharp objects. Look at the days listings to find which court you are in and meet up with your Solicitor and Barrister at the agreed place.
If this is your first appearance at Crown Court then the judge will deal with administrative matters and ensure that all the papers are to be provided by the due date. The prosecution (CPS) seems to take little notice of this and charges are likely to change several times before and even on the day of the trial. The judge will then agree a date for hearing with the Barristers.
If you are to plead guilty to some or all the offences on the indictment then the judge is likely to ask for a Probation Report known as a Pre-sentence Report.
If you are appearing in court to be sentenced (referred from the Magistrates Court) then this is likely to be your one and only appearance with the possible outcomes listed below.
Otherwise, you now leave the court and wait until the date of hearing.
During these few weeks prepare yourself and your family for the consequences of a conviction. If you are married, have a business to run, rent your accommodation which a term in prison would put into danger of loosing etc. then you need to prepare matters. If you are a lone parent you should work quickly to ensure that your children are looked after whether that be by Social Services or friends. Ensure that bills do not build up whilst in prison by organising your financial affairs.
As the day approaches say your good byes if necessary. Ensure that you see your Solicitor before the day and prepare yourself well.
So, you are back at Crown Court.
If the case is referred for sentence or if you are pleading guilty to the only charge before the court then the appearance will be brief. Essentially you are just there to be sentenced. If necessary a probation report will have been obtained. If you are sentenced to a term in prison you are likely to be taken direct from the court to prison.
Otherwise you are into the hearing. Expect chaos on the first day of hearing particularly on cases scheduled to last a few days, weeks or months. It is likely that the Crown Prosecution Service will have been lazy in providing the information required by the judge to be supplied to the Defence and to the Jury. The case may well not start on time and you might find yourself considering charges and information you have never seen before.
Once in court you will have to sit in the Dock next to a man from Group 4 or some other Security Firm. He is not a Police Officer or a Prison Officer. He and the court will treat you with respect and not be unfriendly no matter what the charges against you.
Eventually the Jury will enter and you have an opportunity to object to any member of the Jury hearing your case. The common objections are that you know the person but there are other opportunities to object. The TV story of objecting to 100s of jurors is a figment of TV imagination so far as the UK is concerned.
Once the jury has been sworn in the case will start with you standing and the Clerk to the Court reading out each charge against you, one by one, and you will have to plead as agreed with your Solicitor. You can now sit down.
Remember this is your case, your freedom and reputation is at stake. If you cannot hear what is going on or you don't understand what is happening talk to your Solicitor. That is what he is paid for.
The Prosecution Barrister will open the case with a description of what the case is about. At times this seems like a piece of fiction and the Barrister will remind the Jury that what he is saying is not evidence but merely setting the scene. The Press will take down this word for word and if it is a Press interest case this will appear in the paper that evening or next day.
Now the Prosecution will start to call witnesses. They will be asked questions and taken through their statements of which you will already have a copy. Remember to communicate with your Solicitor to ensure that any matter you want questioned is brought to the attention of your Barrister. Once the Prosecution has done with a witness your Barrister can cross examine. Prosecution can re-examine if necessary.
Once all the Prosecution witnesses have been called the Barristers sums up the presentation and it is your Defence Barrister's turn. Again your Barrister will set the scene and take your witnesses through the evidence to support your case. The Prosecution have the right to cross examine and the Defence can re-examine.
In most cases the accused (you) will be called as a witness in your defence. This can be a harrowing experience but the judge will ensure that there is fair play. You are not there to be tricked or tripped up, just to tell the truth. Remember to be careful only to answer the questions in the way that has been rehearsed with your barrister.
Your defence Barrister will call, in your support, character witnesses to try to mitigate the crime. The purpose is to try to minimise the sentence but also to persuade the jury in cases of doubt that you could not possibly have committed the crime - you are too nice a chap for that.
Both the Prosecution and the Defence barristers make their closing statements and then the jury gives directions. He tries to help the jury to the matters to be considered. He might even say that in his opinion there is no case to answer on a particular charge.
The jury will now retire to consider the verdict. This can take minutes to days during which you have to wait patiently. The jury will be asked to make a unanimous decision but if there is an inability to do so the judge might ask for a majority verdict in which case 10 jurors have to be of the same mind.
If you are found guilty it is the judge that sentences you. These are the various sentences he can impose or a mixture of some of them:
When sentence is passed the matter is concluded. If it is a custodial sentence (prison) the judge will say those dreaded words "Take him down".