I have to go to court, what should I do now?
Ok, you have to go to court, it’s not great, but it’s not the time to panic.
The reason you have been charged is because the police or the Crown Prosecution Service think there is enough evidence to take the case to court, but that does not mean there is enough evidence to find you guilty. Unless you plead guilty it is for the magistrates, judge or jury to find you guilty beyond all reasonable doubt.
This is the moment to be proactive, don’t just think that you will turn up to court and deal with it. You want to be completely prepared for your first appearance at court. This time before you go to court is a golden opportunity to start preparing your case,
Start gathering your evidence and speaking to your defence witnesses, once you get to court you need to know what evidence and witnesses you want at the trial.
If you are going to plead guilty it is damage limitation time, of course you want the best possible sentence, so think about getting letters of support and character references that you can take with you to court.
Now is also the time to get an experienced solicitor like me on board. A solicitor can get the prosecution papers in advance of the court date, meet and advise you on the strength of the evidence, and outline all your options, including advising you on your plea and telling you what the likely outcome will be. It is invaluable time to plan your defence, or plan how to get the lowest possible sentence.
You must attend court on the time and date given, otherwise a warrant will be issued for you arrest, you really don’t want to be arrested early one morning and taken to the Police station to sit in the cells until the next court sitting.
If you can’t afford a solicitor like me you can try and apply for legal aid, or you can ask to see the duty solicitor at court. Both options are better than nothing but sadly the service you get can be very limited. Both options will give you legal advice at court but it is very unlikely you will get the proactive advice and preparation work your case needs in the days and weeks before the first court hearing.
It’s your case, be proactive, get the best solicitor available to you, and remember good preparation is the key to taking control of this situation and getting the best possible outcome.