Mode of trial hearing

The mode of trial hearing is held in the magistrates’ court to decide if the case is tried at the magistrates’ court or the crown court.

When a defendant is charged with a triable either-way offence a procedure is set in motion which starts with the process known as Plea Before Venue. This is when the defendant will be identified and the charge will be read out. He will be asked if he pleads guilty or not guilty or no plea. If there is a guilty plea the Magistrates Court will proceed with the sentencing unless they feel that their powers of sentencing are insufficient, in which case it will be sent to the Crown Court for sentencing.


If the defendant pleads not guilty or there is no plea the court proceeds to the Mode of Trial hearing. It is at this stage that a decision will be made regarding where the case will be heard. That is to say, if it will be held in the Magistrates' Court or the Crown Court. The prosecution and the defendant will be asked whether summary trial or indictment is more appropriate. The prosecution will outline the details of the case and both the prosecution and the defence will make representations. At this stage it is assumed that the details provided by the prosecution are correct. Information regarding any prior convictions will be given which is a significant extension of power introduced by the Criminal Justice Act 2003. The magistrates will then consider which mode of trial is most suitable.


If the magistrates consider that a summary trial is suitable the defendant will be told and advised that he could still be sentenced by the Crown Court even after a summary trial. The defendant will be asked "Do you wish to be tried by this court or do you wish to be tried by a jury?"  In other words the defendant must agree to a summary trial if this is recommended but he is entitled to 'elect' a jury trial. On the other hand if the magistrates consider the case suitable for trial on indictment the defendant will have no choice and can not 'elect' a summary trial.


Criminal Justice Act 2003 (c. 44) -

The CPS : Code for Crown Prosecutors: Mode of Trial

Either Way Offences

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