If you have committed a criminal offence and your case is being heard with a crown court trial, you will have pleaded not guilty to one or more counts – or charges – alleged against you, possibly up to several months ago.
Based on your instructions and the specifics of your case, our team of specialist solicitors at Lawtons will have prepared your defence before your trial.
The trial process
At your crown court trial, a jury of twelve people will decide whether you are guilty or not guilty of the offence you are charged with, which you have previously denied.
A judge will supervise the crown court trial. The Judge may make rulings during the trial and will inform the jury of the law that relates to your case, but they do not decide whether you are guilty of the offence.
You will be represented in court by an advocate – either a barrister or solicitor-advocate. The prosecution (the Crown) will also be represented by an advocate, as will any co-defendants in your case.
At the start of your Crown Court 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.
Crown Court Jury
Jurors in a Crown Court trial process are members of the public who are 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 act as a juror in your case due to a conflict of interest.
The prosecutor opens the case by informing the jury of the allegation against you. What the prosecutor tells the jury in the case opening is not evidence against you.
Evidence in a Crown Court trial
Witness evidence is what witnesses provide to the jury in a crown court trial. A witness may be an individual that claims to have seen you committing a crime or they may be a police officer who investigated your case.
The prosecutor in the trial will ask the witnesses to tell the Jury their version of events. If you disagree with anything a witness says, your advocate will ask the witness questions. This is known as ‘cross-examination’ in the crown court trial process. If you have co-defendants, their advocates will also have the chance to ask the witnesses questions. The prosecutor can then ask each individual 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 the alleged offence. If there is nothing that you dispute in a witness’ 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. They may also be handed objects or documents relevant to your case, known as 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 with this request then the case against you is at an end.
The defence case in a Crown Court trial
Otherwise, the defence case begins. You may give evidence, although you cannot be forced to do so if you do not wish to. If you give evidence you will go into the witness box, from where 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 also ask questions of their witnesses.
At the end of the defence case, each advocate can make a closing speech to the jury. The prosecutor will speak first, followed by the defence advocate. Your advocate will put arguments to the jury to propose why you are not guilty of the alleged offence.
The Judge then ‘sums up’ the case to the Jury. They will inform the Jury of the law that applies in your case and will remind them of the most important pieces of evidence in the case.
The Judge will inform the Jury that they can only find you guilty of the offence you are accused of if they are convinced beyond reasonable doubt that you have committed the offence.
The Jury will then go to a private room where they will discuss the evidence they have heard and decide whether you are guilty of the alleged offence. Nobody other than the Jury will take part in these discussions.
The Jury will make a decision on each of the counts alleged against you and if there are other defendants, on each individual defendant.
Normally all twelve Jurors will have to agree on whether they find you guilty or not guilty of the offence – known as a unanimous decision. 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 the decision.
If the jury cannot come to a verdict on which at least ten jurors agree, this becomes a hung jury. You may then 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 the designated foreman of the jury will inform the court of the Jury’s verdict on each count and for each defendant.
If you are found not guilty of the criminal offence you are accused of, that is the end of the case against you on those charges.
Sentencing in a crown court trial
If you are found guilty on one or more counts in the Crown Court, the Judge will need to sentence you for the crime. Sentencing may take place shortly after you have been found guilty, especially if you have been convicted of serious charges.
Alternatively, the Judge may order that the probation service prepare a pre-sentence report. If this happens, you may be released on bail or remanded in custody until you are sentenced, which is usually around three weeks after you have been convicted.
If you are facing a crown court trial, get in touch with our team of specialist solicitors at Lawtons. We have the knowledge and expertise to represent you in a crown court trial and we will work with you to get the fairest possible outcome for you.
Nb. This guide is intended to give general information only and is 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. 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.