cambridgeshire magistrates

funded by the Cambridgeshire Branch of the Magistrates' Association

Adult Courts

Offences

Defendants for all offences which come to court appear in magistrates' courts in the first instance, although some are then sent on to the Crown Court to be dealt with by a judge and jury:

  • Some offences can be dealt with only by the Crown Court - serious offences such as murder, rape and arson;
  • Other offences (such as theft and fraud) go to the Crown Court if the circumstances are particularly serious but stay in the magistrates' court if the circumstances are less serious;
  • Over 95% of cases are dealt with wholly in magistrates' courts. Many offences can be dealt with only in a magistrates' court.

The types of offences that are heard regularly in magistrates' courts are theft (including shoplifting), assaults, public disorder and criminal damage, drug-related offences and many road traffic offences including driving while over the alcohol limit.

Public disorder and violence are often linked with alcohol consumption and theft is often linked with drug misuse.

Cases related to public health, environmental damage, cruelty to animals, evasion of rail fares, television licences and council tax and benefit fraud are also handled in magistrates' courts.

From April 2015 Domestic Violence and Youth cases will be heard at Huntingdon, all other cases will mostly be heard at Cambridge or Peterborough.

Proceedings

When a defendant pleads "not guilty" to an offence, a trial is held. The magistrates listen to the evidence presented by the Crown Prosecution Service and to the evidence put forward by, or on behalf of, the defendant. The magistrates decide whether the evidence proves that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

When an offender pleads guilty, or is found guilty, the magistrates decide what sentence to impose. To find more about sentences click here.

When someone is first accused of a serious crime, a decision is made on whether they can be allowed to remain free or they should be remanded in custody until their case can be heard in court. Magistrates take great care in deciding whether someone should be kept in prison before their guilt has been proved. If someone is released on bail, they may have to comply with certain requirements such as not contacting other people involved in their case. If a person breaks their bail conditions, they will be arrested, brought back to court and may be remanded in custody.

Magistrates consider applications from the police for search warrants which are normally issued as part of investigating a crime. They also issue warrants for the arrest of defendants who do not appear in court when they should do.