Guide to appearing in the Magistrates’ Court
The prospect of appearing in a Magistrates’ Court can be daunting. There are rules and procedures which can be confusing or even intimidating to a client or outsider.
This is intended to give you some helpful basic advice as to what is likely to happen when you appear at Court.
Most traffic offences will be dealt with in the Magistrates Court. More serious offences may be referred to the Crown Court. Magistrates cannot order sentences of imprisonment that exceed 6 months (or 12 months for consecutive sentences), or fines exceeding £5000.
A Magistrates’ Court is the lowest level of Criminal Court in England and Wales. It is usually presided over by 2, or more usually 3 Magistrates, or sometimes by a single District Judge. Unlike Judges, Magistrates are usually laypeople who are not legally trained.
Magistrates and District Judges are always assisted by a professional Legal Adviser. It is the Legal Adviser’s role to ensure that procedures are adhered to and that the Magistrates are properly directed as to the law and their powers, as well as to see that the Court’s business is dealt with efficiently.
The Legal Adviser must not exert any influence upon the Magistrates or Judge. For this reason, the advice they give should be given in open Court.
When addressing a Bench of Magistrates, you will hear advocates refer to them as “your worships”. If speaking to a Magistrate or Judge you should really call them ‘sir’ or ‘madam’, as appropriate. You should always dress smartly for any Court hearing. This will show that you respect the Magistrates and that you are taking the matter seriously.
For more information see our other pages on Appearing at a Magistrates’ Court
- General information
- Before the court- the summons
- Arriving at court
- In the Magistrates’ courtroom
- The Magistrates’ decision
- Paying your fine
If you wish to see this information in PDF please see our Guide to appearing in the Magistrates’ court
If you would like us to look at the paperwork to check the summons is valid or advise you with regard to your options, or if you require legal representation, call us now on 0800 046 3066