If you are having a Crown Court trial, this means that you will have pleaded not guilty to one or more counts (‘charges’) alleged against you, probably several months ago.
Based on your instructions, Lawtons will have prepared your defence before your trial.
At your trial, a jury of twelve people will decide whether you are guilty or not guilty of the charges you have denied.
A judge will supervise the trial. He or she may make rulings during the trial, and will tell the jury the law that relates to your case, but he or she does not decide whether or not you are guilty.
You will be represented by an advocate – a barrister or solicitor-advocate. The Prosecution (or ‘the Crown’) will also be represented by an advocate, as will any co-defendants in your case.
At the start of your trial, the Judge may rule on any legal arguments put forward by the advocates. Once that has been done, or if there are no arguments, a jury will be selected. Jurors are ordinary people chosen at random to try your case, and may come from any walk of life. If they happen to know you already, they will not be able to try your case.
The Prosecutor then ‘opens’ the case by telling the jury what the allegation against you is. What the Prosecutor tells the jury in the opening is not evidence against you.
Evidence is what witnesses tell the jury. They may say that they have seen you committing a crime or they may be police officers who investigated your case. The Prosecutor will ask the witnesses to tell the jury what they say happened. If you disagree with anything a witness says, your advocate will ask the witness questions. This is called ‘cross-examination’. If you have co-defendants, their advocates will also have the chance to ask the witnesses questions. The Prosecutor can then ask the witness more questions in re-examination.
Sometimes evidence is not disputed. For example, you may agree that you were arrested by the police, even if you disagree with what it is said you have done. If there is nothing that you dispute in a witness’s evidence, then his or her statement may be read to the jury.
There may be CCTV evidence in your case, which will be shown to the jury, and they may be handed objects or documents relevant to your case. These are called exhibits.
Once the Prosecution has called all of its evidence, there may be an opportunity for your advocate to argue that that the case against you should end at this point. This might happen if there is no evidence to prove that you have committed the offence alleged against you or the evidence against you is weak. If the Judge agrees, then the case against you is at an end.
Otherwise, the Defence case begins. You may give evidence, although you cannot be forced to if you do not want to. If you give evidence you will go into the witness box. Your advocate will ask you questions. If you have co-defendants, their advocates can ask you questions, and the Prosecutor will then cross-examine you. Your advocate may ask you questions in re-examination.
If you choose not to give evidence, the judge may tell the jury that they can hold that failure to give evidence against you when deciding whether or not you are guilty.
If you have any witnesses you want to call, you will be able to do so.
If there are any other Defendants in the case, they will also be able to give evidence and call witnesses. Your advocate can ask questions of the Defendants who give evidence, and of their witnesses.
At the end of the Defence case, each advocate can make a speech to the jury. The Prosecutor will go first, followed by the Defence advocates. Your advocate will put arguments to the jury to show why you are not guilty.
The Judge then ‘sums up’ the case to the jury. He or she will tell the jury the law that applies in your case, and will remind them of the important parts of the evidence.
The Judge will tell the jury that they can only find you guilty if they are ‘sure’ that you have committed the offence alleged against you.
The Jury will then go to a private room where they will talk about the evidence and decide whether you are guilty. Nobody other than the jury will take part in those discussions.
The Jury will make a decision on each of the counts alleged against you, and, if there are other Defendants, on each Defendant.
Normally all twelve jurors will have to agree on whether they find you guilty or not guilty. This is called being unanimous. If a jury cannot come to a unanimous decision, the Judge will direct them to return a ‘majority verdict’. In that case, at least ten jurors must agree with each decision.
If the Jury cannot come to a verdict on which at least ten of them agree, that is called a ‘hung jury’. If that happens, you may have to face another trial in front of a new jury.
Once the jury have reached a decision, either unanimous or majority, they will come back to Court and one juror, ‘the foreman’, will tell the Court what the verdict is on each count and for each Defendant.
If you are found not guilty, that is the end of the case against you on those charges.
If you are found guilty on one or more counts, the Judge will need to sentence you. That may take place shortly after you have been found guilty, especially if you have been convicted of very serious charges.
Alternatively, the Judge may want to know more about you and order that the Probation service prepare a Pre-Sentence Report about you. If this happens, you may be released on bail or remanded in custody until you are sentenced, which should normally be about three weeks after you have been convicted.
Nb. This guide is intended to give general information only and not intended to be used as the basis upon which Advice is given nor should it be relied upon as giving advice specific to a case or individual and Lawtons do not accept liability for anyone using this guide. Should you require specific advice in connection with a real case or situation, please contact us immediately so that we can provide specific Advice