When you have been given a date for a plea and trial preparation hearing (PTPH), it generally means that your case has been transferred from the magistrates’ court to the crown court. This hearing will be your next court date.

What is a PTPH?

During a PTPH, the court will typically expect a defendant to be arraigned. In practice, this means that the defendant enters a plea of either guilty or not guilty. Depending on the plea that is entered, the case will then take a certain direction – that of guilty or not guilty.

What happens in a not guilty plea case?

If a defendant pleads not guilty to the offence they are charged with in a PTPH, the prosecution and defence counsel will have had a discussion prior to the case being heard in court. The defence barrister will have been briefed on the case before the hearing, so that they know:

  • The details of the case
  • Why the not guilty plea is being entered
  • What the issues are

The barristers will then complete what is known as the PTPH form, which is a legal requirement and will be used by the judge when fixing the trial and deciding on when it will be and how long it will last.

During the hearing itself, the judge will fix a timetable of when they expect things to happen. Typically, this will involve the prosecution being directed to serve the evidence upon which they intend to rely by a certain date. This is referred to as Stage 1.

The judge will also direct that the defence respond with what is known as a Defence Case Statement by a certain date. This is referred to as Stage 2. The Defence Case Statement is an important part of the preparation for trial. It is a document that outlines in some detail what the defendant is saying about the prosecution case against them. It will also outline why the defendant is pleading not guilty and what further evidence should be disclosed as part of the defence’s preparations for trial.

Stage 3 is normally the last stage, which involves the prosecution formally responding to the Defence Case Statement. Depending on that response, further arguments can then take place. These are typically more complicated and relate to the specific details of the case, often involving a legal argument in court.

The last thing that the judge will normally do is set a date for the trial, along with any further dates where legal arguments may take place.

What happens in a guilty plea case?

In a case where the defendant is pleading guilty, the judge will normally have two main options:

  1. The first will involve the case being adjourned for a pre-sentence report, which is a document that the probation prepare following an interview with the defendant. Often if this does take place, the case may be adjourned for several weeks so that the report can be prepared. This tends to happen where the judge requires some assistance or further information on the defendant before he or she can pass sentence
  2. If the judge decides that he or she does not need to have a formal pre-sentence report, they can proceed straight to sentencing. In this scenario, the judge will hear an outline of the facts from the prosecution, before then hearing from the defence barrister who will detail relevant information and mitigation. Sometimes, once the judge has heard from the prosecution and defence, they will then ask questions if they feel that more information is needed. Once the judge is satisfied that they have all the information they need, they will then pass sentence.

Each and every case will vary, depending on the specific nature of the offence and the plea entered. There are times when the plea and trial preparation hearing may happen differently. The benefit of an experienced legal team of solicitors and barristers working on your case ensures that whatever does happen can be dealt with as it arises.

The team of solicitors at Lawtons have extensive experience in plea and trial preparation hearings and they are able to apply their expertise to deal with any PTPH and the issues that may arise. If you need expert legal advice on the specifics of your case, contact us to see how we can help you achieve the best outcome.