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The Police must prove that you are guilty of the offence beyond a reasonable doubt. If the Magistrate has a reasonable doubt than they must dismiss the charge. In most cases you do not have to prove anything and you are presumed to be innocent of the offence until proven guilty.
The Police Prosecutor who represents the Police will call witnesses to try and prove that you committed the crime. When the witnesses first give evidence, they are giving "evidence in chief". You or your solicitor may object to questions asked by the Police Prosecutor in certain circumstances. Unfortunately, it would be impossible to cover every possible objection that could be taken, in this guide.
After the Police Prosecutor has finished asking the witness questions you or your solicitor may cross examine the witness. Good cross examination skills are developed over many years so when choosing a solicitor enquire how many Criminal hearings the solicitor has been involved in, so that you are confident they will be able to break down the witnesses’ story. If you are not represented by a solicitor, you should plan what you intend to ask each witness, so that you may be effective.
After you or your solicitor has finished cross examining the witness the Police Prosecutor will be able to clarify any answers in re examination. After all witnesses have given evidence the Police Prosecutor will close the Police case.
Before you are required to answer the Police case, the Magistrate has to decide whether taking the Police case at its highest you could be lawfully convicted of the offence. You or your solicitor are able to make submissions to the Magistrate as to why you could not be lawfully convicted. If you do make submissions you must be careful not to comment on whether a witness should be believed as the Magistrate may now allow you to give evidence.
There is a principle of law that an accused person can make submissions as to why they should not be convicted of an offence. These submissions can be made without giving evidence. However, once you make these submissions you may not be allowed to call evidence on your behalf. If the Police case is weak, your solicitor may choose not to call you to give evidence. This decision is difficult to make and should be considered carefully.
The information contained in this page was accurate at the time it was published. You should confirm the accuracy of this information with us or another solicitor before relying upon it.