Attending Court for a Driving Offence
Attending Court can be a daunting process but with the correct preparation and some understanding of how the Court works, it should be possible to achieve a worthwhile result, without incurring unnecessary grief and expense. However, it is essential that the case is properly prepared and the appropriate guidance/advice obtained.
Which Court will deal with my case?
In England and Wales, most driving offences are dealt with in the Magistrates' Court and the case will be referred to one of the Courts local to where offence was committed. In Scotland, cases are referred to the local Sherriff's Court, The Justice of the Peace Court or District Court, depending upon the severity of the offence.
How long will it take my case to get to Court?
For most offences, the Police have 6 months from the date of the incident to start the Court process. Some Police forces will serve papers within weeks of the offence, whereas others will not actually get a file to Court until the 6 months is almost up. You do not have to be served with the Court papers within 6 months, the Police merely have to start the process in that time. Consequently, it may be 7-8 months from the offence before you actually attend Court.
Do I have to attend a Court hearing?
This depends on the nature of the offence. Many cases can be resolved by letter however, more serious matters will require a personal attendance. This is quite often the case if the Court is considering disqualification. The fact that your Single Justice Procedure Notice / Summons /Postal Requisition (Diet in Scotland) may infer that attendance is not necessary does not mean that the Court cannot subsequently demand a personal attendance. In some circumstances, you may be able to avoid attendance by having legal representation present in your place. If you have been charged and bailed you must attend.
How long will a hearing last for a personal attendance?
The Court will expect you to be fully prepared. If you are not ready to deal with the matter, you may find that the case is disposed of very quickly. However, if you are fully prepared you will be allowed as much time as is required, which on most guilty pleas will be in the region of 30 minutes but can be substantially longer for a not guilty case.
Will my case be dealt with at one hearing?
For a guilty plea, the Court will always endeavour to conclude matters without an adjournment. However, this cannot be guaranteed and certainly, if the Court takes the view that you are not properly prepared, it can adjourn the case, rather than waste time trying to resolve matters. Alternatively, there is a risk that rather than adjourn, regardless of how badly prepared you are, the Court will simply impose a punishment that it feels appropriate.
For a not guilty hearing, the Court may list an interim directions hearing before allocating a trial date.
Will the Court assist me at the hearing?
There is no obligation on the Court to run the case for you. You are expected to prepare the case or obtain advice and/or representation well in advance of your attendance.
Is the Court not obliged to instruct a Duty Solicitor to represent me?
No. There is no obligation upon the Court to supply assistance or representation. It is assumed that upon receipt of the papers, you will have taken the appropriate steps.
Whilst it is feasible that there may be a Duty Solicitor at Court, there is no requirement for this and in any event, that person must give priority to more serious cases. Do not assume that you will receive any assistance at all.
Can I represent myself at Court?
To avoid a driving disqualification or challenge prosecution evidence you will need to meet specific legal criteria and be able to present your case in Court. If your licence is on the line, it is best left to the legal experts. If you do wish to represent yourself, make sure that you have at least obtained some expert guidance.
If you are happy to represent yourself at Court but need guidance and assistance in preparing the case, Motor Lawyers offer a fixed fee Self Representation Service:
What are the benefits of being legally represented at the hearing?
Representation on the day should result in a more relaxed process for a Defendant as the Barrister/Advocate can deal with many of the peripheral issues and thus remove that burden from the Defendant. Likewise, it may be possible for Counsel to obtain some concesions from the prosecution at the Court door. The submission presented will benefit from the Barrister's experience, knowledge of the law/Court process and indeed the leanings of that particular Court. If you would like to be represented at Court, Motor Lawyers offer a fixed fee Barrister Representation Service.