Jun 14 2022

Do I have to go to court?

Lots of people are, understandably, terrified at the prospect of having to attend a court hearing as a defendant. Nobody wants to stand in the dock, being judged (literally by the judge and figuratively by others in the room) with all the associated feelings of shame that can accompany a court hearing, not to mention the risk of a journalist snapping your photograph for the newspapers.
So, do you have to go to the court if you have been accused of a crime? I know you’re going to hate me for this true lawyer’s answer but… it depends.
The first question is “how were proceedings started”? There are several ways for a prosecutor to begin proceedings against somebody and I don’t intend to bore you with them all here and now so let’s just say you can be bailed to court or summonsed.
If a police officer charges you with an offence at a police station and gives you a notice to attend court, it’s likely that you have been bailed. If you receive the notice to attend court in the post, then it’s likely you have been summonsed.
You’re probably wondering what the difference is, and honestly, I think it’s really difficult to understand why there is a difference even for experienced lawyers; but there is. If you are bailed to attend court, you enter into an agreement with the police – a recognizance – that you will show up in person to the court on the day and time given.
Section 122 of the Magistrates’ Court Act 1980 allows anybody who has not entered into a recognizance to send a solicitor in their place. In fact, if you send a solicitor you are deemed to be present and so the case can proceed as if you were there. That includes the holding of a trial if necessary.
So, do you have to go to court? If you’ve received the notice to attend court through the post and you instruct a solicitor, then you won’t have to attend court personally.
If you have aa court case coming up and would like to instruct us to represent you then send us a message via our contact page or call 020 8242 4440.