A committal hearing takes place when the magistrate decides that case should be tried at a Crown Court. The committal hearing is heard in a magistrates’ court and would usually happen within 2 months of the defendant being charged. The idea around committal is that the magistrate has the right to dismiss the case completely before it goes to trial, based on lack of evidence.
It is down to the magistrate at the committal hearing to decide if there is enough sufficient evidence to send a defendant to trial the Crown Court. The usual process for this is:
- The prosecutor will present the case against the defendant and call witnesses to obtain evidence.
- The defence lawyer may cross-examine the witnesses.
- The magistrate may invite submissions.
- After hearing all the evidence, the magistrate will decide if the evidence is enough to put the defendant on trial.
- If this is the case, the magistrate will charge the defendant.
- The defendant will choose whether to plea ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty’.
- If the plea is guilty, the defendant will be sentenced.
- If the defendant pleads not guilty, then they will be committed for trial in a higher court.
- If the evidence is not substantial enough at the committal hearing, then the case will be dismissed.
The Committal Bundle
If someone is informed that they will be facing a committal hearing, they should appoint a solicitor immediately if they don’t already have legal representation. The defendant will be asked to produce something called a ‘committal bundle’. The solicitor can arrange all the necessary components to compile the bundle, some of which may include:
- any evidence towards the case
- any unused statements.
The bundle provided at the committal hearing should not include statements that can damage the prosecution, or any evidence that may be deemed unreliable. This is absolutely fundamental, as any person’s statements provided at the committal hearing could be used if the case goes to trial, and the people asked to attend court could be used as witnesses.
If there is any doubt over the committal bundles at any point, then seek advice from a solicitor. The bundle should be served for the committal hearing as soon as possible. They should also be accompanied by the correct paperwork needed for the hearing.
On the day of the committal hearing, be sure to arrive at the courts with plenty of spare time. It is wise that the defendant introduces themselves to the prosecuting advocate and sustains a professional manner at all times.
If you are facing committal and need to seek legal advice from a solicitor, then feel free to contact us. We have a wide range of solicitors that specialise in many areas and can adapt to suit your needs. Fill in the box to the right and tell us a little bit about your situation. A member of our team will get back to you promptly.