When you have been accused of a criminal act, it can be an intimidating and uncertain time, regardless of your innocence.
And, during the initial stages of your accusation, you may find it difficult to know exactly who is in charge of which part of the criminal process. Of course, regardless of your knowledge of the criminal system in the UK, from the moment that you are arrested, you will need to hire a criminal solicitor to defend and advise you at the police station.
As you can imagine, a lot of the professionals that you may or may not encounter during your legal case may appear to blend or merge concerning their responsibilities. Your criminal solicitor is more than likely to liaise with each of the groups that you come into contact with, and hopefully, they will be able to minimise any punishment that each group of professionals hands out!
Here, a brief guide to the UK Criminal Justice System is explained, along with the role(s) that your criminal solicitor will have with each of them during your case.
As the first stage of your case, you will encounter the police.
If you have been arrested and are being detained at the police station, your solicitor will visit you and offer you advice relating to your case.
If you have been accused of a crime that is less serious, such as a driving offence or even minor shoplifting, then your solicitor will discuss your circumstances with the police, aiming to have any punishment reduced. As criminal law is such a wide area, you will need to ensure that your solicitor has expertise in the specific area.
Should your case go to court, depending on the severity of the act, you will be required to attend either one or both court systems.
In less severe cases that warrant it, your case will go through the Magistrates Court. If deemed acceptable for this court, you will be sentenced at this stage.
In instances where your case is serious, you will be sentenced at the Crown Court; in both instances, your solicitor will defend your case and aim to ensure that the sentence you are given is minimal.
When your case has been overseen by the Magistrates Court alone, it is more likely that you will receive a community order.
If this is the outcome, your solicitor will ensure that you are following the community order and are attending regular meetings with them or any other professional appointed by the court. Remember, failure to adhere to a community order could result in a custodial sentence, so always work with your solicitor in these instances.
Should you receive a custodial (prison) sentence, your solicitor will still be working hard to either have the court’s decision overturned or appealed.
If this is not possible, they will be visiting you in custody, offering you legal advice for any future hearings and alerting you to any changes in your case.