Last updated: 04/06/2020
There are different names for court dates, depending on what stage of the process you are at.
Plea Hearing - this will be your first appearance in court and solicitors normally call it a ‘First Hearing’. This is where you have the opportunity to plead guilty or not guilty. If you plead guilty this will be the only court date you need to attend. Please note that pleas can be made by post or email, and post Covid this will become much more common. So many defendants will not come to court for their plea hearing. Please read https://informeddissent.info/courtsandcorona for more information.
Trial - if you are pleading not guilty and have attended your plea hearing then you will have been given a trial date.
All the magistrates’ courts currently used by XR defendants – City of London, Westminster, Hendon and Camberwell – are in south London, at least as far as the Courts Service is concerned. Listings at all these courts are dealt with centrally, and the email address is given below. Whenever you write to the courts, sent a copy to the Crown Prosecution Service:
You will be notified by post that you have been charged with an offence. The papers will include a date and time for your first hearing, and a form to fill in if you want to plead guilty by post or email. If you need to change your hearing date, send an email to both of the above addresses with your date and court in the subject line, indicate your name and case number, and explain that it is a first hearing, and also why you have to ask for another date. Let them know which other dates are also inconvenient for you and why. A request to change a first hearing date or time will not normally be refused.
Following the April Rebellion, all first (plea) hearings were held on Fridays at City of London Magistrates’ Court, and defendants could indicate a preference for morning or afternoon. If you are found not guilty or the case is dropped against you then you can submit travel receipts to the courts and you’ll be refunded. But due to Covid you may not attend court at all. We don’t advise just not turning up to your first hearing or not responding to your charge letter, but if you do the district judge can order one of three actions:
1. set a new hearing date, probably the next Friday, and notify you of it,
2. assume you want to plead not guilty and set a trial date, and notify you of it,
3. assume you want to plead not guilty and try you in your absence, which will be a very quick process.
A major reason for the plea hearings for those defendants pleading not guilty is to agree a trial date, and changing it later is difficult. The courts will need a good reason, like personal or family illness. Being abroad or on holiday isn’t always accepted.
XR Legal Support attends the Friday plea hearings if they are taking place, so if an emergency crops up a day or two before your hearing, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll speak to the court usher on your behalf.
If you don’t turn up for your trial (again, we don’t advise it) then you will be tried in your absence. Obviously you’ll be found guilty but will not have made a statement to the court, and you will be expected to pay full prosecution costs as though the trial had taken place. In addition you may receive a fine rather than a conditional discharge as you didn’t explain the reasons for your actions.
At the time of writing (early June 2020) we don’t know what form trials will take, what arrangements will be made for defendants, witnesses and supporters. But it is likely that trials will have only one defendant and so the process will be much slower.