Virtually all criminal cases begin at a Magistrates’ Court, but some cases such as robbery, serious assault, rape or murder are known as ‘indictable only’ offences which means that they can only be heard by a judge and jury, and those are automatically sent to the Crown Court. Some other cases such as fraud, less serious assaults, burglary and drugs offences are also heard in a Crown Court. These are known as ‘either way’ cases as they can be tried in both Magistrates’ and Crown Courts.
The first part of any Crown Court case is known as the Plea and Trial Preparation Hearing (ptph). That takes place usually 4 weeks after the magistrates’ court hearing.
That may sound like a long time in which to prepare, but it’s very important to speak to an experienced criminal defence solicitor as soon as you are charged with a crime. If your case is expected to be heard at a Crown Court, the experienced criminal defence solicitors at Bray & Bray can advise you through every step of what can be a daunting process.
What is a Crown Court ptph?
The ptph is an essential part of every Crown Court case as its purpose is to make sure that a timetable is set for the prosecution and defence so that all the necessary preparation will be done in good time before any trial date. The aim is to ensure that the trial date set is the only one needed, and avoid unnecessary adjournments of the trial. Usually, the ptph will be the only hearing in advance of a trial. However, as some cases are more complex than others, occasionally the process will be different.
What will happen to me at the ptph?
As the defendant, you will go through the formal legal process called arraignment. This means that you will be officially called before the court and informed of the charge or charges against you.
Next you will be asked to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. If you plead guilty to all matters, the judge will move on to sentencing straightaway. There may be an adjournment for the court to obtain further information before sentence is passed, but that is not obligatory. A defendant pleading guilty must be ready for all outcomes on the day.
If you plead not guilty to any or all of the charges, the judge will set a timetable for the progress of the case, and set a fixed or warned hearing date for the trial.
Before you attend your ptph, it’s essential to decide on a plea based on the professional advice your criminal defence solicitor has given you.
Who will represent me at the ptph?
When your case is sent to the Crown Court, your criminal defence solicitor will refer your case to an in-house solicitor advocate, or an external barrister, the choice of which we will discuss with you. At Bray & Bray we have two very experienced solicitor advocates, Mike Garvey and Mara Silver-Romefort. Both are qualified to represent our clients in Crown Court cases, and have done so in a wide range of matters, from attempted murder and kidnap, to all kinds of dishonesty and sexual offences. We offer a supportive, professional approach and our close working relationship with our team of criminal defence solicitors means that we are ideally placed to represent you at your Crown Court case.
What happens if I plead not guilty?
The prosecution are obliged to give some initial disclosure of the evidence at the magistrates’ court hearing, and your criminal defence solicitor will give preliminary advice of what your plea should be.
Further disclosure may follow, and if the advice remains that you should plead not guilty,
your defence advocate will then fill in a PTPH form, a legally-required document that the judge uses when fixing a date and length for the trial. The judge then sets the process in motion by deciding on a timetable for all the necessary pre-trial preparation and setting a date for the trial by jury.
What happens if I plead guilty?
If your legal team have advised that it’s best to plead guilty, the judge has two options as follows:
- Adjournment of the case for a pre-sentence report. This happens in cases where the judge feels more information is needed before passing sentence. You, the defendant will then be interviewed by a probation officer and a report will be prepared to assist the judge as he or she decides on the appropriate sentence.
- If no pre-sentence report is needed, the judge hears the prosecution’s description of the facts of the case before listening to the defence, who will provide necessary information and any mitigating arguments that the judge may take into account when deciding on your sentence. After the judge asks any necessary questions, he or she will pass sentence.
Speak to your local criminal defence solicitors
It goes without saying that being charged with an offence that is to be heard at a Crown Court means you have been accused of a serious crime. Contact the experienced, supportive criminal defence solicitors at Bray & Bray to make sure you get all the help you need before, during and after your Crown Court preliminary hearing:
Leicester: 0116 254 8871
Hinckley: 01455 639 900