The plea and case management hearing is an integral, yet little understood, area of the criminal trial process in UK law. Legal expert Nick Titchener, director and solicitor advocate at London Criminal Defence Solicitors, Lawtons, discusses what a plea and case management hearing is, and what will happen at the hearing.
What is a plea and case management hearing?
The first hearing after committal, a plea and case management hearing is intended to ensure that the correct plea and trial process are followed.
At plea and case management hearing, the judge will decide if enough information has been provided to allow a trial date to be set.
A plea and case management hearing is always heard at the Crown Court.
What happens at a plea and case management hearing?
At a plea and case management hearing, the indictment will firstly be read out. Then the defendant will be asked if they plead guilty or not guilty to each count of the alleged offence.
If the defendant pleads guilty, they may be sentenced immediately, or alternatively an adjournment may be requested to allow pre-sentence reports to be completed. If the defendant pleads guilty to some counts and not guilty to others, sentencing will be adjourned.
If the defendant pleads not guilty to all counts, the prosecution and defence will inform the court of relevant details such as:
- How many witnesses they intend to call
- Any evidence they intend to exhibit
The court will then be given an estimate of how long the trial is likely to run for, alongside when witnesses will be likely to have to attend court.
The judge will ensure sufficient directions are put into place to allow the trial to proceed as soon as possible.
The use of a plea and case management form is mandatory during a hearing.
About the author
Nick Titchener is an expert criminal solicitor with many years of experience. He has handled a wide range of complex legal cases including sexual offences, violence and assault. Nick’s measured, carefully considered approach means he thrives on even the most complicated cases.
He also oversees the overall management of Lawtons Solicitors, which has branches across London, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Essex.
What is Committal or Allocation?
This is the stage at which a case is transferred from the Magistrates Court to the Crown Court, with the next hearing tending to be either the PTPH or a Sentencing Hearing.
What is a plea?
A plea is the defendant’s response to each charge brought against them. Whether this is entered as “guilty” or “not guilty” will affect the next steps taken from a plea and case management hearing.
What is a case ‘for mention’?
A case is listed for mention if there is an administrative matter to be ruled upon before the main trial can proceed (or proceed any further). For example, the judge may need to rule whether a certain piece of evidence can be used in court. Mentions for cases are usually dealt with quickly and often take no longer than one sitting. A case which is ready to proceed without mention would be listed as ‘for hearing’.
How does a plea and case management hearing differ to a plea and trial preparation hearing?
A plea and trial preparation hearing – PTPH – requires the defendant to enter a plea regarding the offence they are alleged to have committed – guilty or not guilty. The plea will then determine the direction the criminal case will take.
A plea and case management hearing takes place after this, to ensure that the correct plea and trial process has been followed.
How long does a Crown Court trial last?
There is no set length for a trial, nor is it possible to accurately predict how long a Crown Court trial will take. However, length tends to be determined by the complexity of a case. Where relatively straightforward cases take no more than a few days, other cases can take several weeks or even months.
The standard jury service period in the UK is two weeks. While jurors may be required to serve for much longer than this, it indicates that Crown Court trials are not usually expected to exceed two weeks in length.