What is a Single Justice Procedure Notice?
The Single Justice Procedure applies only to cases involving adults charged with summary-only non-imprisonable offences, at present it is primarily used to prosecute motoring offences. The single justice procedure started in April 2015 having been introduced under The Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015.
It will enable relatively minor motoring cases to be dealt with by a single magistrate sitting with a legal adviser considering the police and court papers without the attendance of either a prosecutor or the motorist at Court. Instead the motorist is ‘encouraged’ to engage with the Court and the single justice procedure by making written representations.
Prosecutors and police will identify motoring cases which might be suitable for the single justice procedure. These will be commenced by a written charge and a document called a ‘single justice procedure notice.’ The primary purpose of the single justice procedure is to ensure that straight forward motoring offences are taken from the traditional Court setting and dealt with in a closed court to be determined by a Single Magistrate with no prosecutor or defendant present.
What will be the first notification that the motorist will receive advising them that they face prosecution under the Single Justice Procedure?
A single justice procedure notice will be sent to the motorist by post explaining the offence which has has allegedly occurred – there will be supporting documentation with the single justice procedure notice which will explain the options available to the motorist. The Notice will be accompanied by the evidence upon which the prosecutor will be relying to prove the case, more often than not the police statements which are said to prove the motoring offence.
The notice will give the motorist a date by which to respond in writing to the allegation – rather than giving a date to physically attend court. However, the motorist has the right to request a traditional hearing in open court. For example, if he/she wishes to plead not guilty, or otherwise wants to have a hearing in open court to dispute all or part of the motoring offence.
In cases where a motorist pleads guilty and indicates that he/she would like to have the matter dealt with in his absence (or fails to respond to the notice) a single magistrate will consider the case on the basis of the evidence submitted in writing by the prosecutor, along with any written mitigation from the motorist. The single magistrate can convict and sentence in the absence of the motorist.
The importance therefore in responding to the Single Justice Procedure Notice and making the appropriate written representations can not therefore be over stated. Without written representations from the driver about their case the case will proceed regardless.
If a single magistrate considers at any point that it would be inappropriate to continue with the case under the single justice procedure, the magistrate should then refer the case to a traditional magistrates’ court to be dealt with in the usual way. In this case, the motorist will be advised of the date upon which he/she should attend the Magistrates Court.
In what circumstances should the accused motorist request a hearing in open court?
If you do not accept the allegations or disagree with any of the facts of the motoring offence this should be highlighted within the single justice procedure notice paperwork and the motorist should request a Court hearing.
Moreover, if there is any suggestion that the motorist will be disqualified from driving or is at risk of being banned from driving then an appearance before a traditional court should be requested. This will allow oral representations to be made on the drivers behalf to the Magistrates Court in the usual way.
I have received a Single Justice Procedure Notice in the post for a motoring offence, should I seek legal advice?
Receiving a single justice procedure notice is no different to receiving a summons to attend Court – if there is anything that you are uncertain of, if you dispute any aspect of the motoring offence or if there is any risk that you will be banned from driving you should take legal advice and in any event ensure that you highlight your views within the single justice procedure paperwork.
#1 Motoring Solicitors provide advice to clients facing prosecution for all types of motoring offences that are prosecuted under the Single Justice Procedure. We are able to assist motorists in making written representations to the Court and provide the most appropriate advice in how to respond to the single justice procedure notice. Call us today for an initial telephone consultation to discuss any questions you have about about this relatively new court procedure.