Criminal proceedings are begun in the magistrates’ court for the area in which the offence was alleged to have been committed. There are three ways in which an accused person may be brought before the court:
SUMMONS :- An ‘Information’ must be given to the court which will issue and serve a summons, giving a date for a hearing. This procedure is the usual way for starting harassment and illegal eviction proceedings. There has to be strong evidence to support the charge and the tenant’s evidence is crucial. See Criminal Procedure Rules r7. It is a judicial decision as to whether or not to issue to summons once the information is laid before the court. The summons is then issued by the court and served upon the accused, normally by post. This will state when the accused is required to attend the magistrates’ court to answer the accusation.
WARRANT:- In serious and urgent cases where there is jurisdiction to issue a summons, an application can be made for a warrant for the arrest of the perpetrator. A warrant can only be issued if the offence is an indictable offence or punishable by a term of imprisonment. Harassment and unlawful eviction are offences which carry a sentence of imprisonment and, as such, warrants can be issued in respect of the offences. The police carry out the arrest and the offender is brought before the court, which may hear or adjourn the case. If it is to be adjourned, the court must remand the accused in custody or on bail. Bail conditions could include reinstatement of the tenant and a restriction on the landlord contacting her/him.
CHARGE:- This is the process whereby the police formally accuse a person of an offence and require her/him to attend court. It is not available to anyone other than the police.
N.B. The accused has a right to elect trial by jury in the Crown Court.
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