A new guideline for determining whether cases should be dealt with by a magistrates’ court or the Crown Court was published on 10 December. The new guideline will come into effect on 1 March 2016.
Its introduction will mean more cases will be retained for trial and sentence in magistrates’ courts: the guideline clarifies that cases should only be sent to the Crown Court for trial when they are clearly unsuitable for trial in magistrates’ courts. Unusually, the guideline does not influence the level of sentence given; it deals solely with which court deals with the case for trial and for sentence. It falls within the Council’s statutory remit to produce this allocation guideline.
Once in force, the new guideline will be incorporated into the on-line Magistrates’ Court Sentencing Guidelines (MCSG). An update to the MCSG folder will be prepared before the new guidelines come into effect on 1 March, and will be made available in hard copy on demand. In the meantime the new guideline can be accessed as a PDF document.