This paragraph has been rewritten as follows to correct a typo:
It is important to remember that you can only benefit from the duty solicitor scheme if:
a. Your charge could result in a prison sentence, and
b. You have not had assistance from the duty solicitor on a previous occasion in your court case.
Here is a list of the most commonly encountered offences that can be tried either at the Crown Court or at the Magistrates’ Court. It is not a complete list because I’ve excluded some offences that don’t crop up so regularly (such as the offences of damaging submarine cables contrary to section 3 of the Submarine Telegraph Act 1885 and frauds by farmers under the Agricultural Credits Act 1928). If you want to see the full list of either-way offences, just look up Schedule 1 of the Magistrates’ Courts Act 1980 at legislation.gov.uk.
Offences at common law:
Outraging public decency.
Offences created by Parliament:
Section 36 of the Malicious Damage Act 1861 (obstructing engines or carriages on railways);
These offences under the Offences against the Person Act 1861:
section 16 (threats to kill);
section 20 (inflicting bodily injury, with or without a weapon);
section 27 (abandoning or exposing a child);
section 34 (doing or omitting to do anything so as to endanger railway passengers);
section 36 (assaulting a clergyman at a place of worship etc.);
section 38 (assault with intent to resist apprehension);
section 47 (assault occasioning bodily harm);
section 57 (bigamy);
section 60 (concealing the birth of a child);
Offences under the Perjury Act 1911 except for offences under sections 1, 3 and 4;
Section 36 of the Criminal Justice Act 1925 (forgery of passports);
These offences under the Criminal Law Act 1967 where the offence to which they relate is triable either way:
section 4 (assisting offenders);
section 5 (concealing arrestable offences and giving false information),
All indictable offences under the Theft Act 1968 except for these ones which are indictable only and must go to the Crown Court:
section 8 (robbery and assault with intent to rob);
section 10 (aggravated burglary);
section 21 (blackmail);
section 9 (burglary involving the commission of, or an intention to commit, an offence which is triable only on indictment);
section 9 (burglary in a dwelling if any person in the dwelling was subjected to violence or the threat of violence);
These offences under the following provisions of the Criminal Damage Act 1971:
section 1 (destroying or damaging property);
section 1 (arson);
section 2 (threats to destroy or damage property);
section 3 (possessing anything with intent to destroy or damage property).
Be aware that a criminal damage allegation may or may not be either way depending on the value of the damage: if the damage is valued at not more than £5,000 then you will not be able to choose Crown Court trial and the case must stay at the Magistrates’ Court.
Be aware also that an allegation of shoplifting items valued at under £200 has its own particular procedure that seems quite odd. The offence is described as summary only (which means that you would expect it to stay at the Magistrates’ Court and the maximum sentence is restricted 6 months’ imprisonment); but under section 22A of the Magistrates’ Court, as long as you are at least 18 years old, you have an unfettered right to ask for the offence to be tried at the Crown Court. So the offence seems to be summary only and also not. I told you it was odd. This is a bizarre procedure that you won’t find anywhere else in the criminal law. I suppose the point is that if you choose to keep your case at the Magistrates’ Court, you have the guarantee that the Magistrates can’t then decide to send you to the Crown Court for sentence. If you do decide that you want your low-value shoplifting allegation to go to the Crown Court then the maximum sentence of 6 months goes, and the Crown Court judge can sentence you (if you are convicted) to more than that, if she thinks that is appropriate.
One other aspect of the low-value shoplifting procedure is that the Police can now offer you the facility of pleading guilty by post, which they cannot do for shoplifting offences where the value is greater than £200. But do be careful about this ‘guilty plea by post’ procedure. It would be ever so easy to think to yourself ‘let’s just get it over and done with’ by signing a form on your kitchen table which would avoid a trip to court. Never forget that shoplifting is an offence of theft, and theft is dishonesty. If you plead guilty by post to theft, you are admitting that you stole someone else’s property deliberately and dishonestly. It will go on your criminal record. If you don’t have a criminal record, then a criminal record will be created for you and this will be your first conviction. For a minor offence of theft, that is a major outcome that you risk bringing about just by signing a form and without any legal advice. Think first, and think long.
Find section 17A of the Magistrates’ Courts Act 1980 here.
7.15, 7.16 and 7.17: these paragraph numbers are intentionally missing.
Find section 18 of the Magistrates’ Courts Act 1980 here.
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