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Plea and Trial Preparation Hearings

What is a PTPH – Plea and Trial Preparation Hearing?


All cases sent to the Crown Court after 5 January 2016 will be sent to a Plea and Trial Preparation Hearing.


Q: Why has there been a change?


A: There has, for some time, been a feeling within the legal system that Preliminary Hearings (in cases where not guilty pleas are expected) have been held too early in the process and that Plea and Case Management Hearings (PCMHs) are either not necessary or do not take place at a time when they could be most effective. This has resulted in lots of different hearings. Added to this are the different local practices and recording methods, which has resulted in court orders not being clearly communicated to those who must act on them, which in turn has resulted in non-compliance. The new PTPH means the adoption of a single national process to be used in all Crown Courts.


Q: When does the PTPH take place?


A: The PTPH takes place a little later than Preliminary Hearings, usually 28 days after sending, unless the Resident Judge orders otherwise. It occurs after the prosecution has provided available information about the case and obtained details of the availability of likely prosecution witnesses. In most cases, this should be sufficient to enable the court to case manage effectively without the need for a Further Case Management Hearing (FCMH) before trial. The PTPH presumes that the parties will have communicated with each other prior to the PTPH in accordance with the duty of engagement, and that they will continue to do so after the PTPH.


Q: What are the aims of the new system?


A: The overarching aims are as follows:


  • a single national process
  • robust case management
  • a reduced number of hearings
  • the earlier resolution of pleas and the identification of the issues of the case
  • the maximum participation and engagement by every participant within the system
  • effective compliance with the Criminal Procedure Rules (CrimPR); Practice and Court Directions.


Q: I have heard of a new Digital Case System. What is this?


A: Running parallel with the introduction of the Plea and Trial Preparation Hearing in the provision of the Digital Case System (DCS) to all Crown Courts before the end of March 2016. When the DCS has been fully implemented, there will be no paper files in the Crown Court. All the documents referred to in criminal cases (i.e. indictments, statements, paper exhibits, defence statements, applications and written orders) will be uploaded onto the DCS and will then be accessible to defence lawyers via computers, tablets and smartphones. Paper copies will still be needed, however, for those without representation as well as jurors. Documents will be ‘served’ when they are uploaded onto the system AND a notification sent by email to the party or parties involved. Any paperwork handed over during a hearing will only be ‘filed’ once it has been uploaded onto the DCS.


Q: What is meant by the Common Platform and why is it important?


A: The introduction of the Plea and Trial Preparation Hearing is a step towards electronic case management and the electronic monitoring of compliance which will be possible with the introduction of the Common Platform. The use of a single national process with largely standard directions is essential to the future development of systems for the court, prosecution and defence that work one with another.


If you are looking for specialist criminal defence lawyers, call our team now on 01623 600645.


Forrest Williams solicitors

Am I Guilty Of A Sexual Offence If I Pretend I’m Someone Else?

Katie Forrest of Forrest Williams

Katie Forrest of Forrest Williams


A key issue with sexual offence cases is consent – did the complainant (the ‘victim’, in jargon-free language!) consent to the act?


However, there are cases where even if it is accepted that the acts took place with consent present, you could still be guilty of sexual offences such as sexual assault or even rape.


One of these scenarios arises whereby the victim argues that they only gave consent because you led them to believe you were someone else, and they believed this impersonation.


There are crucial points to note in relation to this.


Firstly, the prosecution must prove that you deliberately impersonated the person with the aim of inducing the victim’s consent.


Secondly, the impersonation must be of someone known personally (but not necessarily sexually) to the victim.  Impersonating a celebrity is not relevant to this issue.


Thirdly, the victim must have believed the impersonation.  If they didn’t believe it, or didn’t care either way as to whether it was genuine, this cannot be said to be the reason for consent.


This issue is of particular importance currently, with considerable attention focused on the question of whether an online contact is someone known personally and, therefore, whether impersonation of an online contact of the victim to induce consent would cause you to be found guilty of a sexual offence.


This is a complex legal issue and if you feel it may be relevant to a sexual offence case you are facing, you will need specialist sexual offence solicitors on your side.



What is a Domestic Violence Protection Order (DVPO) ?

What is a Domestic Violence Protection Order (DVPO) ?


Domestic Violence Protection Orders (DVPOs) were introduced across England and Wales in March 2014 as part of the Call to End Violence Against Women and Girls action plan.


Under the DVPO scheme, police and magistrates have the power to ban a domestic violence perpetrator from returning to their home or having contact with the victim for up to 28 days in the immediate aftermath of a domestic violence incident.


An initial temporary notice, the Domestic Violence Protection Notice (DVPN) can be issued when authorised by a senior police officer, and this is then followed by a DVPO which will be imposed at the magistrates’ court.


When is a DVPO imposed?


DVPOs are often imposed where there is not sufficient evidence to charge the perpetrator with a criminal offence.


Does the victim have to consent to the DVPO?


No, the victim doesn’t have to consent to the DVPO or even have provided a statement to the police.


When does a DVPN become a DVPO?


The initial temporary notice lasts for 48 hours.  If a longer-term order is to be granted, the police must make an application to the magistrates court to hear their case within 48 hours of the notice being issued.


What is the criteria for a Domestic Violence Protection Order being issued?


The magistrates court must be satisfied that the following conditions are met:

  • they are satisfied that on the balance of probabilities the perpetrator has been violent towards or has threatened violence towards the victim
  • they believe that the order is necessary to protect the victim from violence or threat or violence


How long does a DVPO last?


The order will be for a minimum of 14 days and a maximum of 28 days.


What happens if the order is breached?


Any breaches of the order will result in the perpetrator being arrested, where they may be remanded in custody and brought before the magistrates court.


If you are someone you know are being accused of domestic violence offences, call the Forrest Williams legal team for a free initial consultation, on 01623 397200.

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