25th January 2016
Make a plea and the Single Justice Procedure
Across the country Magistrates are introducing a new procedure which is intended to enable the early and efficient disposal of certain classes of criminal offences. The new systems have the potential to be very helpful and may save time and costs. However there are some difficulties and potential pitfalls that everyone should be aware of.
Known as the Single Justice Procedure, it applies to non imprisonable offences of a type that can only be dealt with by Magistrates Courts. In most areas where it has been introduced it is being used to deal with so called “minor” road traffic offences. These minor offences are, of course, those that can lead to heavy fines and driving bans if you are not careful.
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If the process applies to your case you will receive a pack setting out various options. You will be given the option of entering guilty or not guilty pleas and of supplying mitigation and financial information. You will be invited to either fill in the forms in the pack by post or complete them online by going to www.gov.uk/make-a-plea.
You will not be given a court date. If your plea is guilty or you do not respond within 21 days, your case will be dealt with by a magistrate sitting in private with a legal advisor and you will be contacted about the outcome. If you plead Not Guilty you will be advised of a trial date.
The Government site does not allow anyone other than the defendant or if a company, the authorised representative of the company to complete it. Your solicitor is not allowed to do it for you. In some cases it has proven difficult to ensure that key mitigation gets through and in cases where more than one matter is alleged it is not easy for the system to deal with mixed pleas.
When cases are dealt with the systems immediately update licence details at DVLA, so real problems may emerge very quickly. Incorrect decisions could impact on insurance cover and even risk vehicles being impounded when checked by automatic number plate recognition.
Cartwright King is a leader in digital working and we hope these systems quickly become functional. However for the foreseeable future our advice is to always seek early legal advice to avoid any problems and reduce risk and stress.
Cartwright King has offices across the country and can assist wherver you are based.