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The Magistrates' Court
Although the City of London Corporation owns the building, the court's legal functions are administered by the City of Westminster. Due to the City's great financial role and small residential population, the emphasis of most cases is primarily based on financial crime, both national and international, with comparatively little by way of domestic burglary or street crime. Much of the City's caseload consists of motoring offences.
If you would like to be represented in court by a solicitor but cannot afford one, you may apply for legal aid by completing a form, which can be obtained from the office (contact details above), from your solicitor or from some Citizens Advice.
If you have any doubt before you come to court as to whether you should plead guilty, you should seek the advice of a solicitor which may, subject to your means and the nature of the offence, be given free of charge.
Please check your summons and see if you are required to bring or send your driving licence to court. You must send your licence to the court so that it arrives before the hearing, unless you are coming to the court and bringing it with you.
Observing court proceedings
You are entitled to attend the court before the hearing to observe the court proceedings.
Date of the hearing
You should attend the court on the date and at the time indicated on your summons or bail notice. If you are on bail, failure to attend Court on time without reasonable cause is a criminal offence for which you could be fined, sent to prison or both.
When you need not attend
You need not attend if the Court has advised you that it is not necessary or if you've received documents enabling you to plead guilty in your absence. If you are summoned for certain minor offences, you may if you wish, plead guilty and have the case dealt with in your absence. To do this, you must sign the part of the form which enables you to plead guilty and return it to the court.
Only babies and children over 14 years old are allowed into the court.
When you arrive at court
Please report to the uniformed Court Officer on duty in the court in which you are to appear. The court lists are posted on the notice board in the main foyer.
A duty solicitor scheme operates in this court from 10am and, if you are facing charges that may lead to a prison sentence, you can receive free legal advice about your case. If you do need advice from a solicitor, you are advised to do this before you arrive at court.
Duty probation officer
A probation officer will be available. For more information please ask the court officer.
Addressing the court
It is usual to address the Chairman as "Sir" or "Madam" or the bench collectively as "Your Worships"
If you are satisfied that you are guilty of the charge, you should plead guilty when formally charged in court. After you have pleaded guilty the Prosecutor will tell the magistrates the facts of the case. You will then be asked if they are correct and you may then add anything that you may think is relevant.
Pleading not guilty
If you plead not guilty the case will normally be adjourned to a new date for witnesses to be called to give evidence. All witnesses you may wish to call must attend in person - letters or written statements will not usually be sufficient. At the trial the prosecution will call their witnesses and you will be given an opportunity to question each one. When all the prosecution witnesses have been called, it will be your turn to give evidence. If, having pleaded not guilty, you later change your mind and want to plead guilty, please tell the court know at once. This may save you paying the costs of witnesses for their unnecessary attendance.
If you have pleaded guilty or the court finds you guilty, you will be given the opportunity to explain the reasons for committing the offence and why you should be dealt with leniently. If you have to pay a sum of money the court will require details of your income and expenditure and you may ask for some time to pay. For more serious cases the magistrates could send you to the Crown Court for sentencing.
If you are found guilty, the court may order you to pay some or all of the prosecution costs. If you are found not guilty of all the charges, you may ask the court to order costs in your favour.
If the court has ordered the endorsement of your driving licence this will usually be sent by the court to the DVLA so that they can record the endorsement. They will return your licence to you at a later date. If, however, your case involves a fixed penalty offence only, your licence will normally be returned to you direct from the court.
If you think the magistrates were wrong in finding you guilty or the sentence was too severe, you may appeal to a higher court. Before appealing you are advised to see a solicitor and free legal aid may be available. The normal time allowed to lodge notice of an appeal is 21 days.