What happens at a Crown Court trial? The verdict.
This is the last in our series of factsheets aimed to give you an overview of what you can expect to happen at your Crown Court trial. This one deals with the conclusion of the case and the verdict.
If you would like to read the series in order click on the links below – we hope that you find them useful.
What happens at the end of the defence case?
After all of the evidence has been heard the Prosecutor will make a closing speech to the jury.
Your barrister will then make a closing speech and will address the jury directly about why it is that you say the prosecution have not proved the case against you.
The Judge will then give the jury any relevant directions on the law and will also sum up the evidence for the jury. The Judge is the Judge of law and will tell the jury what law applies in your case and how they should treat and approach that law. The Judge can’t tell the Jury which witnesses they should or shouldn’t believe or indicate to them whether you should be found guilty, that is entirely a matter for the jury.
Examples of directions that the Judge could give are:
- A direction about the burden and standard of proof
- A direction about how the jury should treat your good character
- A direction about the Jury should treat your bad character
- A direction about how the jury should treat your no comment interview
What happens next?
Before the jury retires the Judge will tell them the following:
- That they must decide the case on the evidence and arguments that they have seen and heard in court and not on anything they have seen or heard or may see or hear outside the court;
- That the evidence has been completed and it would be wrong for any juror to seek or receive further evidence or information of any sort about the case i.e. conduct their own internet research;
- That they must not talk to anyone about the case save to other members of the jury and then only when they are [all] deliberating in the jury room; and that they must not allow anyone to talk to them about the case unless that person is a juror and he or she is in the jury room deliberating about the case;
- That when they leave the court they should try to set aside the case they are trying on one side until they return to court and retire to their jury room to continue the process of deliberating about their verdict or verdicts.
The jury bailiff will then be sworn. This means that they are promising to keep the Jury in a private place, to ensure that no-one outside the jury speaks to them and to not speak to them him/herself unless to ask them if they have reached a verdict.
The jury will retire to reach their verdict. They will be asked to elect a foreman who will be the person who will announce their verdict in open court and the person who chairs their deliberations.
What happens to me whilst I am waiting for the verdict?
If you have been on bail throughout your case it is likely that your bail will be extended whilst you are waiting for the jury to reach their verdict. Generally you will be granted bail on the condition that you stay within the court precinct. This means that you must stay within the court building, no further than the court steps. This means if you are a smoker you will be allowed outside for a cigarette!
This is probably one of the most stressful parts of your trial. There is nothing you can do but wait.
If you have been in custody awaiting your trial you will be taken back down to the cells whilst the jury are deliberating.
Often the Jury will have questions. If this happens all parties will be asked to come back into the court room where any questions from the jury will be dealt with in open court. The Judge will read out the question and will answer it if appropriate. Once this has been dealt with the jury will go back into their room to continue with their deliberations. The jury is only allowed to ask questions about the evidence that they have already heard or to seek clarification on the law.
Do all 12 members of the jury have to agree?
Initially yes until such a time (if at all) as the judge gives a majority direction. If all twelve members of the jury agree this is called a unanimous verdict.
What is a majority direction?
It means that ten or more members of the jury must agree on a verdict.
When will the Judge give a majority direction?
The Judge must give the jury a minimum of two hours to reach a unanimous verdict before giving them a majority direction. At the expiration of the two-hour period it is a matter for the Judge when s/he thinks it is appropriate to give the jury the majority direction providing the s/he is satisfied that the jury is unlikely to reach a unanimous verdict given more time to consider their deliberations.
Before giving the majority verdict the Judge will ask the foreman the following questions:
- Have you reached a verdict upon which you are all agreed? Please answer yes or no.
- If unanimous, what is your verdict?
If it appears the jury are not unanimous or are unable to reach a unanimous verdict they will be asked to retire once more to try to reach a unanimous verdict but told that if they are unable to do so, the Judge will accept a majority verdict.
If the Judge thinks that the jury could still reach a unanimous verdict then they will be sent back to their retiring room to continue their deliberations.
Once the majority direction has been given the jury may come back with a verdict quite quickly depending of course how many were in agreement when the direction was given. Often it is just one or two holding out.
What verdicts can the jury give?
- Guilty to all counts on the indictment
- Guilty to one or some of the counts on the indictment and not guilty on others
- Not guilty to all counts on the indictment
- In some cases, guilty to a lesser offence, for example, if you have been charged with causing grievous bodily harm with intent, the jury could find you not guilty of that offence but guilty of causing grievous bodily harm without intent i.e. recklessly.
What happens when the jury have reached their verdict?
The jury will tell the jury bailiff that they have reached a verdict. All parties will then be called back into court including the jury. The foreman will sit in the front left hand seat nearest the Judge. The foreman will be asked to stand. The Judge will ask the foreman –
- Have you reached a verdict upon which at least ten of you agree?
- If yes, what is your verdict? Please answer only Guilty or Not Guilty
- If Not Guilty the verdict will be accepted without further question.
- If Guilty, is that the verdict of you all or by majority?
- If Guilty by a majority, how many of you agreed to the verdict and how many dissented?
What happens if the jury find me not guilty?
If you are found not guilty of the charge(s), that is the end of the matter and you will be discharged. If you have incurred travel costs for coming to court for the trial and any previous hearings, you can make an application to recover these costs. If you have funded your representation privately or contributed to your legal aid your barrister can make an application to the court for a defence costs order.
If you have been found not guilty of some charges but guilty of others then for the procedure about how the guilty verdicts will be dealt with, please see below.
What happens if I have been found guilty?
The Judge will either:
- Sentence you there and then.
- Put your case back to later in the day for you to speak to a probation officer in the interim and will then sentence you later that day.
- Adjourn your case for 3-4 weeks for the preparation of a full pre-sentence report.
What happens if my case is adjourned for sentence?
You will be given an appointment for you to attend the probation service and at that appointment you will be interviewed by a probation officer who will speak to you about the offence and about you.
Two things you should note
1. If you don’t attend your appointment (or attend late) you may not be given another chance. This is not in your best interests as it can restrict the Court’s options when sentencing you and also the fact that you have failed to co-operate with probation is not going to impress the Judge or necessarily persuade him/her that you would be willing to cooperate with a community sentence. If you have a genuine reason for not attending your appointment always tell the probation service and your solicitor and if you can, obtain evidence of it.
2. What you say to probation is not confidential and will go in your report and will be read by your sentencing Judge.
If you haven’t received a date for your probation appointment it is your responsibility to chase one up.
If you are in custody, the probation officer will visit you at the prison in person or via a video link. Just because you’ve been remanded in custody does not necessarily mean you will receive an immediate custodial sentence for the offence and in most cases it’s still in your best interests to co-operate with the probation officer.
You will then have to re-attend court on the date and time given to you on the last occasion to be sentenced.
If I have been found guilty could the Judge send me to prison there and then?
Yes. This depends entirely on what you have been convicted of and any previous convictions that you have. Whether there is a risk of this happening in your case is something that you should already have been advised about by your barrister. If they have advised you there is a risk of this happening you should come to court prepared for this and you should bring a bag with you into the dock. If you don’t take your bag with you into the dock you will not be able to take it with you to prison. The court cells will not accept your property from anyone else.
For details about what happens when you get to prison please see our separate factsheet.
What happens if ten or more can’t agree?
If having been out for some time to consider the verdict the jury still can’t agree the Judge will call them back into court and ask them to indicate whether they are likely to be able to reach a verdict upon which ten or more agree? If the answer is no, the jury will be discharged. This is called a hung jury. If this happens in your case your trial will be adjourned to a new date. In the interim the prosecution will make a decision as to whether they will re-try you. If they do, your next trial will proceed exactly as described above but with a new jury. If they decide not to re-try you, that will be the end of the case against you.