What to do if you receive a Notice of Criminal Charge

11th November 2020 | Legal Insights & Resources|
Nick Titchener headshot

Nick Titchener

Director & Solicitor Advocate

In Brief

A Notice of Criminal Charge is also known as a postal requisition and serves the same purpose. It is used to notify a suspect in a criminal investigation that they have been formally charged and are required to attend court. The first thing you must do if you receive a Notice of Criminal Charge is seek out legal advice; this is not an admission of guilt but simply a step towards securing a positive outcome in court, with the help of an expert defence team who will closely examine your case from every angle.

Notice of criminal charge

If you have been interviewed in connection with a suspected offence and released under investigation or released on bail, it is likely to be some time before you know the outcome of the investigation. This can be a stressful and uncertain period, and may last for weeks or months. Most people who are being investigated for an offence find out the eventual outcome when they receive a Notice of Criminal Charge through the post – most commonly when they have been released under investigation. This document formally advises you that, on completion of the police investigation, you have been charged with the offence in question and will be required to attend court. 

A Notice of Criminal Charge was previously known as a postal requisition and it serves essentially the same purpose. Where a suspect is over 18, has a known fixed address and there are no known barriers around language or communication, it is the preferred method of notifying suspects in a wide range of cases. On receiving one, it is crucially important that you do not panic or attempt to take any further steps by yourself.

If you have had a Notice of Criminal Charge through the post, now is the time to ensure you instruct the right criminal defence solicitors to represent you. You are not limited to the duty solicitor or solicitor who dealt with you at the police station. Building a robust defence could be the key to protecting your reputation and future which are now on the line. At Lawtons we have a wealth of knowledge and experience in handling serious criminal cases. Our dedicated private client or legal aid team will work tirelessly to examine all evidence and construct the best possible defence on your behalf. 

Having recognised leading crime solicitors at your side makes the difference, and we will approach your case without judgement and with the highest level of attention to detail. We are here to guide you through whatever the coming weeks and months bring, so do not delay in contacting us by calling 0333 577 0522.

What is a Notice of Criminal Charge?

Police forces and the CPS have been using postal requisitions for notifying suspects and summoning them to court for some time. Recently, an increasing number of these documents have been sent out with the new heading “Notice of Criminal Charge”, which appears to suggest a small change in wording but little else. 

The Notice of Criminal Charge will tell you that you are required to attend the magistrates’ court in the first instance, but depending on the nature of the case this may be escalated to the Crown Court further down the line. This method of notification can be used for a broad range of cases including the most serious. The eventual outcome of the case will depend upon what evidence is presented in court and what plea you decide to enter. 

What does a Notice of Criminal Charge include?

A Notice of Criminal Charge contains several pages including the following information:

  • The intended recipient of the Notice and date of issue
  • The date and time you are required to attend court
  • Your case reference number
  • The offence you have been charged with, including the specifics of the offence
  • The importance of securing the right legal representation
  • What happens next, and how to contact the court and prosecutor
  • Charitable organisations that can offer help and support

It will not tell you of any reason or evidence for why the decision has been made to prosecute you, or detail anything that has taken place in the police investigation.

We will request this information in advance from the prosecutor on your behalf, so that you know what to expect on the day. Early preparation is vital, and at Lawtons we can help you ensure you have done everything that you need to in advance of attending court. You will need to decide whether to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty before attending court.

How long does a Notice of Criminal Charge take to arrive?

If you have been released on bail, the police will set a date at which you are required to re-attend the police station. This means that Notices of Criminal Charge are less commonly used in these circumstances, but if you have been released under investigation you will be notified ‘at some point’ and it is much more likely to be via a Notice of Criminal Charge.

There are maximum periods of time within which it must be sent to the suspect in question, and due to the unpredictable nature of police investigations it can be a few weeks or many months. We will advise you on the correct time limits in the issuing of your notice of criminal charge. The best thing that you can do if you are anticipating the arrival of a Notice of Criminal Charge is ensure that you have professional legal representation in place to help you with the next steps. 

What is the difference between a Notice of Criminal Charge and a Notice of Intended Prosecution? 

No legal difference exists between the term Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP) and Notice of Criminal Charge. The terms are interchangeable. Whatever term is used, the outcome is that you are facing criminal charges and need to speak to a specialist criminal solicitor.   

What happens if I ignore a Notice of Criminal Charge?

You must not ignore a Notice of Criminal Charge or refuse to attend court – this could result in an arrest warrant. If arrested, you could be kept in police custody until your court date, which could be overnight or over a weekend. The court will then need to decide whether you can be released on bail.

The best course of action is to ensure that you make the correct decision over who will represent you at court and choose experienced legal practitioners. You are not required to remain with the duty solicitor that represented you at the police station.  At Lawtons we are equipped to help you whatever your situation, so let us work with you with the hope of attaining the best possible outcome for you and your family. Call us urgently today on 0333 577 0522 and take the first step. 

Related Articles