Here are some things you should know about claiming trial to a charge in Court:
What does it mean to claim trial to a charge?
- When you have been formally charged in Court for an offence, you will need to inform the Court of the course of action you wish to you take:
- Plead guilty (i.e. you wish to admit to the charge and accept that you will be punished for the offence)
- Claim trial (i.e. you wish to deny that you committed the offence as alleged and you wish to prove your innocence or provide your defence at a trial in Court)
- If you claim trial, a court hearing will be scheduled for you to defend yourself where you will need to present the evidence to persuade the Court to accept your basis for disputing the offence alleged.
- You may engage a lawyer to represent you at a trial or you may conduct the trial on your own if you do not have a lawyer.
- An administrative hearing known as a Pre-Trial Conference (PTC) will be conducted to manage the progress of the case up to the day of the trial.
- The PTC may be used to allow the parties to discuss how they intend to manage the presentation of their evidence and make efficient use of the time allotted for the trial
- Trial hearing dates will be scheduled once the parties involved in the case are prepared to start the trial
- The number of trial dates allocated will depend on the number of issues and evidence involved in the case i.e. more trial dates will be allocated for a case involving many or complicated issues and a large quantity of evidence
- You should be prepared to inform the Court of the evidence that you will be presenting and relying on
- You will also need to confirm the number of witnesses you intend to call and their availability to attend the trial. Interpreters will be provided by the Court for the trial if any of your witnesses do not speak English
- You will be responsible for ensuring that your witnesses attend the trial. You can apply to the Court to issue a formal notice to compel your witnesses to attend the trial if you believe that they may not attend voluntarily
What happens at the trial?
- In a criminal trial, the Prosecution will present their evidence first:
- The Prosecution will call their witnesses to testify and give evidence
- The Prosecuting Officer will conduct the examination-in-chief (EIC) of each Prosecution’s witness to introduce his respective evidence
- After the EIC of each witness has been completed, your lawyer will be allowed to conduct the cross-examination of the witness by asking him questions.
The purpose of the cross-examination is to challenge or contradict the testimony given by the witness, such as by using the contents of documents to contradict what he had said earlier in his testimony.
- After the cross-examination, the Prosecuting Officer will be allowed to conduct the re-examination of the witness by asking him to explain the answers he had provided during cross-examination.
- After all the Prosecution’s witnesses have testified and given evidence, your witnesses in support of your defence will then give evidence according to the same procedure that was used for the examination of the Prosecution’s witnesses i.e. examination-in-chief followed by cross-examination and then re-examination.
What happens after all the witnesses have given evidence at the trial?
- Once all the witnesses have completed their testimonies and given evidence at the trial, the Prosecution and Defence (i.e. you or your lawyer) will present oral or written closing submissions
- The purpose of the closing submissions is for each party to summarise the evidence presented at the trial and provide reasons why the Judge should accept their respective evidence and why the Judge should decide in favour of them.
- After the closing submissions have been presented, the Judge will consider the evidence and reasons and then make a final decision as to whether or not the Prosecution has succeeded in proving your guilt.
- If the Prosecution has succeeded in proving its case against you and that you committed the offence alleged, the Judge will convict you of the charge and impose a sentence against you
- If the Prosecution has failed in proving its case against you and that you committed the offence alleged, the Judge will acquit you of the charge
- If you are convicted of the charge, you will be given an opportunity to inform the Judge of any mitigating factors which you may have.
- The Judge will consider your mitigation plea and then impose a sentence against you.
- Once a decision on the conviction and sentence has been made by the Judge, either party may generally make an appeal to the High Court in the following situations:
- If you were sentenced after having pleaded guilty and are not satisfied with the Judge’s decision, you may make an appeal to the High Court against the sentence imposed
- You may make an appeal against sentence if you feel that it was manifestly excessive or not supported by the facts or the law
- The Prosecution may make an appeal against sentence if it feels that it was manifestly inadequate or not supported by the facts or the law
- f you were convicted and sentenced after having claimed trial and you are not satisfied with the Judge’s decisions, you may make an appeal to the High Court against the conviction and sentence.
- If you were acquitted after having claimed trial, the Prosecution may make an appeal to the High Court against the acquittal
- You will need to file the formal application for an appeal within 10 days from the date of conviction or sentence.