Once an individual is charged with a crime they will initially appear in a local magistrate’s court. Some cases are tried in the court and heard by usually three magistrates, who are lay people from the local community and advised by qualified legal clerks. They decide whether the individual is guilty or innocent and if they find them guilty, they decide on the appropriate sentence.
If the case is more serious, for example, murder, serious assaults or rape, the magistrates will refer the case to crown court where it will be heard by a judge and a jury who will decide if the individual is guilty or innocent.
Each court has a team of probation staff who provide a range of services both for offenders and for the magistrates or judges who sentence them.
We meet offenders after they have been sentenced to make sure that they have fully understood what has happened. We also set up their first appointments and explain the requirements of the order to them including what they can and cannot do while on the order.
We offer magistrates advice on the sentencing options available and attend each court session to handle any enquiries. We also advise magistrates and judges on suitable bail arrangements for offenders who are remanded on bail allowing them to live in the community before their sentence is passed. This can include discussing suitable accommodation with relatives or checking availability in bail hostels.
Probation staff also act as the prosecutor in court when an offender is returned to court for breaching their order. This means that they have not kept their appointments as they should have done so they are returned to court for an extra punishment or to be resentenced.