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Summary Trial Notes

BPTC Law Notes > BPTC Criminal Litigation Notes

This is an extract of our Summary Trial document, which we sell as part of our BPTC Criminal Litigation Notes collection written by the top tier of City Law School students.

The following is a more accessble plain text extract of the PDF sample above, taken from our BPTC Criminal Litigation Notes. Due to the challenges of extracting text from PDFs, it will have odd formatting:

SUMMARY TRIAL The Bench

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s121 Magistrates Courts Act ("MCA") - Minimum 2 Magistrates for summary trial, Maximum 3 Magistrates - usually 3
* or District Judge sitting alone

Chairman

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If District Judge sits with Magistrates - District Judge acts as chairman

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If no District Judge - Magistrate elected by bench (annual elections) - chairman
* If no elected Magistrate - most senior Magistrate is chairman

Representations in Chambers

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Court has discretion to hear representations in chambers (in private)

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Discretion must be exercised with even greater caution that Crown Court trials.

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All parties should be:
* aware of hearing, and
* represented in Chambers (except where PII issue to be heard on ex parte basis)

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Contemporaneous note of proceedings should be taken (normally by clerk)

Disqualifying Interests & Withdrawal

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Magistrate should not hear a case, in which he has:
* a direct pecuniary interest in the outcome, or
* an indirect non-pecuniary interest substantial enough to lead to a real danger of bias.

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If Magistrate has a relationship to a Witness or is aware of info detrimental to Defendant - Test: Would a fair-minded and informed observer conclude that there is a real danger of bias?

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If charge sheets indicate Defendant appearing for multiple offences in Magistrates Court that day, and Defendant pleads Not Guilty to first charge, knowledge of other charges may be sufficient to disqualify the Magistrate(s) - depends on facts of individual case.

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Where Magistrate knows of Defendant's previous convictions - desirable he should withdraw but not required. - consider whether in the interests of justice for Magistrate to sit.

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If not practicable to print names of Magistrates on court lists, a bona fide enquirer ought to be able to ascertain who they were from clerk
* Clerk may withhold names if reasonably thinks wanted for improper purpose.

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If Magistrate fails to withdraw in a case where has disqualifying interest - any decision Magistrates Court makes liable to be quashed by JR. Role of Magistrates' Legal Adviser/Clerk

(outline only)

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May be Magistrates' clerk or legal adviser qualified to act as clerk to the court

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Plays a major role in summary proceedings

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Clerk's tasks include:
* putting information to Defendant,
* taking a note of evidence,
* helping unrepresented Defendant in presentation of his case, and
* advising Magistrates on points of law and procedure as they arise.

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Magistrates, as a matter of practice, accept Clerk's advice on matters of law.

Clerk's Advice on Law

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Therefore where point of law has to be decided during a hearing, Clerk should give advice publicly so parties hear.

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If clerk not present when submissions on point were made, then called by Magistrates to advise - crucial that he hears the submissions.

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If point of law not argued by Prosecution or Defence but clerk fees should be brought to Magistrates' attention - should refer to point in open court so parties can comment on it.

Retiring to Consider Verdict

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When Magistrates retire, Clerk may only retire with them if invited to do so as Magistrates wish him to advise on law or, if minded to convict, on sentence.

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Must not interfere with Magistrates decision on Questions of fact, nor put himself in a position where there may be an appearance that he has interfered.

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Generally where law is straightforward, Clerk should not retire with Magistrates

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If Clerk is needed to advise, should only retire for period to give advice and then leave Magistrates to make decision. Abuse of Process (outline only)

s9(2) MCA - Magistrates under general duty to hear available evidence then decide to acquit or convict. Magistrates have a limited discretion to dismiss a case on the ground that it constitutes an abuse of process. Exceptional Circumstances Power to dismiss ought only to be used in exceptional circumstances, where:

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Defendant could not receive a fair trial, or

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it would be unfair for Defendant to be tried.

Delay by Prosecution

s127 MCA - Information must be lain within 6 months of commission of offence But no timing requirement for Prosecution serving summons or bringing case to court. Magistrates have discretion to acquit without hearing evidence if:

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Prosecution have abused court procedure by deliberate delay, or
* Magistrates may acquit if information lain before Prosecution decides will prosecute - should only lay information with intention of serving resultant summons.

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Prosecution inefficiency has led to extreme delay which might prejudice Defendant if trial allowed to proceed.
* eg. where severe delay in serving summons due to mistake/inefficiency.

Other Circumstances Bad faith by Prosecution in bringing prosecution may lead to dismissal Before dismissing a case, Magistrates Court should hear from Prosecution and Defence Decision to dismiss may be quashed on JR and case remitted to difference bench. Proceeding in Defendant's Absence Crown Court Trials: Defendant must be present to plead and then (normally) throughout the trial Magistrates Court Trials: often take place in Defendant's absence. s12 MCA - permits Defendant to plead Guilty by post s11 and s13 - Magistrates Court's options where Defendant, who has not pleaded Guilty by post, fails to appear for trial. If Defendant's legal representation is present, Defendant is deemed to be present unless his presence is expressly required by statute. s11 MCA - Proceeding in Defendant's Absence Conditions for Proceeding in Absentia

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s11(1) - Magistrates must proceed with trial in Defendant's absence if he fails to appear if
# Defendant over-18, and
# in the interests of justice to do so

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less likely to be "in the interests of justice" where offence serious

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If Defendant under-18, Magistrates may proceed in Defendant's absence.

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If proceedings started by laying of information - can only proceed in Defendant's absence if Prosecution prove that summons served on Defendant within reasonable time before hearing date
* if proceedings started by arrest then police bail - Defendant knows date of hearing - no proof necessary - but if Defendant arrested, likely offence serious so unlikely to proceed in absence.

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If EW offence, can only proceed if Defendant was present at mode of trial hearing and consented to summary trial.

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