Magistrates’ Court Cases

Whatever charges you face, appearing at court can be a stressful experience. You need a firm that understands the importance of supporting their clients through the process as well as providing them with expert legal advice.

Which Cases Go To Magistrates Court?

All criminal cases are initially heard in the Magistrates’ Court, regardless of how serious the offences are.

The Magistrates’ Court will retain all cases that comprise of “summary only” offences and some cases that comprise of “either way” offences, depending on the circumstances.

Summary Only Offences

Summary only offences can only be dealt with at the Magistrates’ Court, unless they attract a prison sentence and/or driving disqualification and are linked with a more serious offence which is sent to the Crown Court.

Summary only offences include:

  • Common assault/assault by beating (not racially/religiously aggravated)
  • Drunk and disorderly behaviour
  • Disorderly behaviour
  • Criminal damage that does not exceed £5000 (not racially/religiously aggravated)
  • Most motoring offences including speeding, drink driving, driving without insurance, failure to provide a specimen, driving without due care and attention etc.
  • Harassment (where there is no fear of violence)
  • Stalking (where there is no fear of violence or serious alarm or distress)

Some summary only offences do not attract prison sentences but if they do, the maximum that can be imposed is 6 months’ imprisonment.

Either-Way Offences

These are offences that can be heard in either the Magistrates’ Court or the Crown Court. When a case is first heard at the lower court, the Magistrates will decide whether they can “retain jurisdiction” based on the seriousness of the case and whether their sentencing powers will be adequate if the defendant pleads guilty or is convicted after a trial.

 The Magistrates’ sentencing powers increased for all offences which take place from 2nd May 2022 and the maximum sentence that the Magistrates can now impose for a single either-way offence is 12 months imprisonment.

They cannot impose any more than 24 months imprisonment in total where there are multiple either-way offences.

If the Magistrates’ decide they can retain jurisdiction in respect of one or more either-way offences, every defendant still has the right to elect Crown Court trial.

There are pros and cons to electing Crown Court trial, and this is something we go over with our clients in detail before any decision is made.

Either-way offences include:

  • Criminal damage over £5000
  • Dangerous driving
  • Intentional harassment
  • Threatening behaviour
  • Possession of drugs
  • Assault occasioning actual bodily harm
  • Causing wounding or grievous bodily harm (without intent to cause grievous bodily harm)
  • Affray
  • Assault emergency worker
  • Some sexual offences (excluding rape and assault by penetration)
  • Burglary (some exceptions apply)
  • Theft
  • Possession of drugs with intent to supply / concerned in the supply of drugs (some exceptions apply)
  • Possession bladed article / offensive weapon
  • Some firearms offences
  • Breach of restraining order/non-molestation order
  • Harassment (where there is fear of violence)
  • Stalking (where there is fear of violence and/or serious alarm)
  • Any racially/religiously aggravated offence
  • Arranging or facilitating the commission of a child sex offence
  • Indecent images

Crown Court Cases

Our Crown Court page contains more information on cases involving the procedure for serious either-way or indicatable only offences.

Regardless of the type of offence you face, you should always make sure you instruct a firm that you can trust to help you through the court process. Fisher & Co is that firm. Get in touch for more information.

Want to know if you’ll be eligible for Legal Aid in Magistrates’ Court proceedings? Check out our Legal Aid information page or contact us.