Crown Court Trial
A not guilty plea in the plea and case management hearing would result in the judge setting a date for trial in the crown court. The prosecution draws up the indictment, a formal document containing the charges. More than one count may be joined on the same indictment where the offences are founded on the same facts, form or are part of a series of offences.
You may be asked to attend the trial as a solicitor’s representative and be paid if it is a very serious offence, where the defendant is a child or young person, disabled, has an adequate command of English or in being sentences to custody.
It is usual for there to be a conference with counsel on the first day of trial. Hopefully the same barrister has acted for the client in earlier pre trial hearing but it may be that in fact this is the first time barrister and client are meeting each other so it would be useful if you met with the client before hand and explained generally what they can expect to happen at court. Put them at ease and take note of any concerns which you must relay to the barrister who will be able to answer more fully as he would have prepared the presentation of the case. You must during the conference and throughout proceedings keep a careful note of all that is being said and done by all parties at court.
Plea bargaining: this happens between prosecution and defence counsel. The defence counsel would want to know whether the defendant can plead guilty to a lesser charge. The case of R v Goodyear 2005 3All ER117 states that the crown court judge cannot be party to the negotiations but may indicate the possible sentence in the event of a guilty plea. This course of action is usually taken where counsel believes that the defence case is essentially weak and on the client’ instructions, it is not worth gong through with a full trial.
During the trial: you will act as the intermediary between the barrister who is facing the judge and the defendant in the dock. At the start of the trial the defendant would have to formally indicate his plea. The jury of 12 is selected from a panel and sworn in. Both sides can challenge the fitness of any member to stand as juror due to bias under s 12 (3) Juries Act 1974.
Opening Speech- the prosecution will begin the trial with an opening speech outlining the case against the defendant and the evidence on which they seek to rely. The opening speech will also seek to outline to the jury that it is the prosecution that must prove the defendant’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt, the judge is the sole arbiter of the law and jury the facts and the prosecuting counsel will also outline the witnesses he wishes to call.
Prosecution evidence- each prosecution witness will give evidence in chief be cross examined by defence counsel and may be re-examined by the prosecution. The purpose of examination in chief is to extract the evidence in support of the prosecution case. The main rule is the leading questions which suggest the answer should not be asked but information should be retrieved via open ended questions. Cross examination serves a number or purposes including eliciting helpful replies or concessions from the other side, expose any errors, inconsistencies or weaknesses in the witnesses account and undermine the witnesses credibility. In re examining a witness the advocate is restricted to matters that have arisen during the course of cross examination In essence it is used to rehabilitate the witness in the eyes of the judge and jury to remedy any possible damage done to their evidence during cross examination.
At the close of the prosecution case the defence can make a submission of no case to answer or call their own evidence to support the defendant’s not guilty plea. The judge will only accept a submission of no case to answer and stop the case where he decides that crown‘s case taken at its highest is such that a jury properly directed could not properly convict. The defence counsel may also make an opening speech where the defence case is outlined and prosecution case undermined. The defence witnesses are then called and the same procedure is adopted to examine their evidence. Both sides will them present their closing speeches directing the jury to convict or acquit.
The judge will then sum up the evidence for the jury drawing their attention of the burden of proof and warning them of the dangers of ID evidence and uncorroborated evidence. Depending on the case the judge will also give directions about hearsay and confession evidence. The judge then advises the jury to choose a foreman and directs them to retire and seek a unanimous verdict. If they have not been able to reach a unanimous verdict they will be called in and directed to give a majority verdict.
If the defendant is convicted the case is likely to be adjourned for a sentence hearing on another date when a pre sentence report has been prepared. If the defendant is acquitted he can apply for costs under s16 Prosecution of Offenders Act 1985.
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