Below you will find a number of helpful links to further information about trial in the Magistrates' Court.
Criminal Procedure Rules and Practice Directions
Much of criminal procedure in the criminal courts is governed by the Criminal Procedure Rules and Criminal Practice Directions. Criminal Procedure Rules Part 24 which is available on the gov.co.uk website sets out the procedural requirements for trial in the Magistrates’ Court. Criminal Practice Direction VI Trial deals with the role of the Justices' Clerk/Legal Adviser in paragraph 24A and Defendants in Person at para 24B.
Memory Refreshing by a witness is governed by s.139 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 which is available on the legislation.gov.uk website.
Restriction on cross-examination about Previous Sexual Behaviour
The restriction on cross-examination about the previous sexual behaviour of a complainant in a case involving an allegation of a sexual nature is contained in section 41 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999. Further information about s.41 is available the Crown Prosecution Service website. The procedure for seeking leave to ask questions or introduce evidence about a complainant’s sexual history is contained in Part 22 of the Criminal Procedure Rules.
Applications for special measures to assist witnesses giving evidence
These are governed by Part 18 of the Criminal Procedure Rules. See also Part II Chapter I of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999. Applications for special measures may be made for both prosecution and defence witnesses.
Submissions of No Case to Answer
As mentioned above, these are governed by Criminal Procedure Rules Part 24 rule 24.3(3)(c) which set out the procedure as follows:
... at the conclusion of the prosecution case, on the defendant’s application or on its own initiative, the court— (i) may acquit on the ground that the prosecution evidence is insufficient for any reasonable court properly to convict, but (ii) must not do so unless the prosecutor has had an opportunity to make representations. This test comes from (and is amplified by) the test set out by the Court of Appeal in the case of R v Galbraith 73 Cr.App.R.124 as follows:
(1) If there is no evidence that the crime alleged has been committed by the defendant, there is no difficulty - the judge will stop the case. (2) The difficulty arises where there is some evidence but it is of a tenuous character, for example because of inherent weakness or vagueness or because it is inconsistent with other evidence. (a) Where the judge comes to the conclusion that the prosecution evidence, taken at its highest, is such that a jury properly directed could not properly convict upon it, it is his duty, upon a submission being made, to stop the case. (b) Where however the prosecution evidence is such that its strength or weakness depends on the view to be taken of a witness's reliability or other matters which are generally speaking within the province of the jury and where on one possible view of the facts there is evidence upon which a jury could properly come to the conclusion that the defendant is guilty, then the judge should allow the matter to be tried by the jury.
Even though this judgment refers to a jury, it applies equally to Magistrates/District Judges hearing cases in the Magistrates’ Court. Read further here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_case_to_answer (England and Wales section).
Section 35 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 contains the adverse inference rule in the ‘A Warning to the Defendant’ section in Magistrates' Court Trial Part 1. It is worth noting that an adverse inference should not be drawn if it appears to the court that the physical or mental condition of the accused makes it undesirable for him to give evidence (section 35(1)(b)). Also, even where an adverse inference is drawn against a defendant, a defendant cannot be convicted solely or mainly due to the adverse inference (see s.38 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 and the case of Murray v United Kingdom (1996) 22 EHRR 29).
Bad character applications
Bad character is governed by Part 21 of the Criminal Procedure Rules and, principally, under sections 98 to 106 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003.