Will the magistrates give me an adjournment?
Think getting your case adjourned to another date is going to be easy? Clearly, you’ve never been to the Magistrates Court before, and you’re not familiar with the terms, “speedy summary justice” or “cracked trial”.
Adjournments can be rarer than hen’s teeth. That’s because there’s a big expectation that trials will start on the day – and on time.
The pressure’s on the magistrates for your trial to start and finish on time
What you don’t know is that there’s also pressure on the magistrates to make sure cases get off the ground on schedule. Targets need to be met – and “cracked” aka ineffective trials are scrutinised by court managers.
Sometimes, trials “crack” due to defendants changing their pleas from Not Guilty to Guilty.
But many times, trials crack because someone’s applied for an adjournment – and the magistrates gave it to them.
Because the pressure is on the magistrates to get through the day without any of the cases cracking, you may have an uphill struggle getting your trial adjourned to another day.
Most people want an adjournment because they are not prepared
What if you are at court and your name has just been called for your No Insurance trial to start – and you realise that the wonderful letter you have from you insurance company saying that you really were insured is at home, sitting on your kitchen counter?
Can someone email this to you? Can your run home and get it? Can someone else get it and bring it to you?
Never assume that the magistrates are going to be relaxed about you coming back another day for your trial. While you could be lucky, with the court so hideously over-listed that they are happy for you to come back on another day for your trial – chances are, the magistrates will expect you to find someone to get your evidence to you asap and to get on with it. (“Too bad, Guilty, next!”)
If you know that you are not going to make the trial date due to a situation out of your control, you should seriously consider making an application to vacate the trial before your trial date. (“Vacate the trial” means postpone it until another day).
My first point of reference for the criteria the courts will use in assessing the merits of an application to vacate a trial date are the Criminal Practice Directions (Part 24C). Find the legal test for your circumstances and start explaining, in writing, to the court and to the prosecution, why you need to come to court on a different date.
What’s the best way to avoid all this drama?
Don’t bury your head in the sand! As soon as you find out your trial date, get busy preparing your defence. It can take longer to gather your evidence than you may realise.
If you have been accused of driving without insurance, and the issue is that you had insurance, then it’s down to you to get proof that you were insured together so you can use it as evidence in your trial. That may mean writing a letter to your insurance company – and waiting for them to respond. This takes time. Give yourself the best chance of being ready for your trial by giving yourself the gift of time.
What if the unavoidable has happened and you truly cannot go to court on the date of your trial? Look at Criminal Practice Direction, 24C and contact the court accordingly and asap.