Magistrates Court and Crown Court

Magistrate or Crown Court?

One of the most important decision we must advise private clients about is where the case should be heard. Criminal cases are divided in to three main case types:

  • Magistrate’s court only cases, these are called summary only offences. Examples are common assault cases, low value theft from shops, criminal damage under £5000, assaults on police, public order offences, some benefits fraud, drink driving and breaches of health and safety and licensing regulations
  • Cases that be heard in either the magistrates court or the crown court. These are called “either way” offences and include more serious assaults, possession and supply of drugs, fraud, theft, indecent assault, affray and burglary.
  • Indictable only cases which must be heard in the crown court such as conspiracies, grave assaults resulting in injury, serious sexual offences, robbery, aggravated burglary and firearms offences


There are over 1500 different offences in the above three categories.

Over 90% of criminal cases are in fact heard in the magistrates’ court. The CPS and the criminal justice system tries to avoid costly crown court proceedings where possible. For instance, almost all domestic violence assaults, are charged under Section 39 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 even when it might be expected that the charge would be under s47 of the Offences Against the Person Act. The reason is simple s39 is a summary only offence. The defendant has no choice but to be tried in the magistrates’ court.

For either way offences clients can decide in which court they wish to have their cases heard. The Magistrates can also decide that the case is too serious for them and direct that the case be tried in the crown court. If the client does have a choice the considerations include:


  • Would the case run better in front of a jury?
  • Are there complex points of law to be argued?
  • Is the case of such significance that only a jury trial will suffice
  • Is it worth the expense?

Whether your case is to be heard in the magistrate’s court or the crown court we are committed to providing you with the highest quality criminal defence service. If you are not guilty of the offence our skilful solicitors will use every legitimate tactic and process to obtain your acquittal. If you are pleading guilty then a well-structured plea in mitigation supported by objective evidence will make a real difference to the sentence imposed. Our cases section contains many examples of cases won where we have done that bit extra to secure an acquittal or reduce a penalty.

Criminal prosecutions are stressful and time consuming. We have successfully represented many professionals in the criminal courts. We understand the extra stress and strain, the anxiety and uncertainty that crowd in on defendants who face losing their career. Our solicitors and advocates guide clients through the whole course of the case, explaining the steps that must be taken to establish their case, obtain their reactions to the prosecution statements, collect independent and expert evidence, instruct advocates and advise on law and procedure.

Call us for an initial assessment of your case and a fees estimate.

For a free initial consultation whether by telephone, video link or in person, call  Gil Spurling on 020 8986 8336 or contact us here.

  • Bank Fraud and Money Laundering
  • Assaults
  • Tenancy and benefit fraud
  • Firearms offences
  • Drugs Offences
  • Murder
  • GBH and assaults
  • Robbery and theft
  • POCA Confiscation Orders
  • Sexual offences
  • Health and Safety Prosecutions
  • Driving Offences
  • Totting up exceptional reasons

Call one of our experts on:

Key Contact

Gilbert Spurling

Partner, Higher Court Advocate and Solicitor

Gil Spurling who specilaises in serious drugs cases.