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Plea Before Venue
What does it Mean?

Many criminal cases can be dealt with either by the Magistrates, or by a Crown Court. A decision has to be made as to which it will be. A new procedure ('Plea before Venue') was introduced in 1997. It is horribly complicated. This note attempts, and probably fails, to explain it.

You are first asked whether or not you wish to indicate a plea, to say whether you will plead 'Guilty' or 'Not Guilty'. You can choose not to do this, to give no indication.

If you decide to indicate a plea, you are then asked what your plea will be.

If you indicate that you will plead Guilty, then the court immediately treats that indication as an actual and immediate plea of guilty. The court will then hear some more details of the case and can then either:

  • Send you to the Crown Court for sentence
  • Adjourn for a pre-sentence report, or
  • Sentence you there and then.

    We can make representations to the court about their sentencing powers in the light of the circumstances outlined and your record (if any). If the court decides to send the case to the Crown Court, the case will usually be adjourned for the prosecutor to prepare appropriate papers.

    If the court decides that it can deal with the case, and if you have pleaded not guilty, or indicated no plea, then you are then given the choice of where you want it to be dealt with, either at the Magistrates Court or at the Crown Court. We will have spoken with you beforehand about this choice. If you had indicated a plea of guilty, then that indication becomes a plea of guilty, and you then have no right yourself to choose to take the matter to the Crown Court.

  • If you decide not to indicate a plea, or to plead not guilty, then the magistrates will go ahead and decide (with our involvement as above), whether to deal with the case themselves.

    It is possible that you are still not yet ready to plead, if for example, some information or other remains outstanding, and we would then ask for an adjournment. Even if you decide to have the matter dealt with by the magistrates, they still have the choice later to send you to the Crown Court, if their sentencing powers prove insufficient.

    Do not feel embarrassed if you have to read this once or twice. Nobody else quite seems to understand it either. In the absence of a guilty plea, you and the magistrates can each choose to have the case dealt with by the Crown Court. If you plead guilty, then you will lose that right, and the Magistrates will have the choice only as regards sentencing.

    Be sure that you have agreed with us beforehand what you expect to say, and when.

    Important: Please note that our law-bytes are retained for archival purposes only. The law changes, and these notes are often, now, out of date. You must take direct advice on your own personal situation and the law as it currently stands.
    All information on this site is in general and summary form only. The content of any page on this site may be out of date and or incomplete, and you should not not rely directly upon it. Take direct professional legal advice which reflects your own particular situation.
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    18 October 2013 148 18 October 2013