If you’ve been charged with a minor criminal offence, you may be able to have your case decided by a magistrate without going to court. This is known as the ‘single justice procedure’.
If this applies to you, you’ll get a single justice procedure notice when you’re charged.
A magistrate will make a decision on your case without your say if you do not respond to your notice within 21 days. You could be found guilty or fined.
The rules are different in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
How to respond to your notice
Your notice will tell you who has brought the case against you (for example, the police or TV Licensing), how to make a plea, and if you can make a plea online.
When you respond you will need to say whether you plead guilty or not guilty.
You can choose if you want to go to court or not.
If you do not go to court, the magistrate will make a decision based on the information they have. You’ll get a letter with the magistrate’s decision.
You can go to court if you want to give information to the magistrates in person. You’ll get a letter telling you when to go to court.
Plead not guilty
You have to go to court and give information to the magistrates in person. You’ll get a letter telling you when to go to court.
If you do not respond to the single justice procedure notice
If you do not respond to the notice within 21 days, the magistrate will make a decision about your case without your say.
This could mean that if you are found guilty and sentenced, there will be no reduced sentence for a guilty plea. Your fine or penalty points may also be higher. Money may be taken from your pay or benefits.
If you need help with your notice you can get legal advice. You can also get free advice from Citzens Advice.
You may also be able to get help with court fees.