Your Estate Agent and Solicitor
under one roof Stevenson & Marshall - making life easier
Beatson & Co
Stevenson & Marshall
A great team of criminal defence lawyers
No-one wants to have to go to court - if this happens to you, you need expert advice and representation in court by a solicitor with skill and experience.
Frequently Asked Questions
Criminal Court Procedure
The police may give you a date to appear in court or you may receive a summons, by post or through the police, which will tell you when you have to attend court.
No. The police report to the Procurator Fiscal who decides whether to prosecute.
No. The decision whether or not to proceed lies with the Procurator Fiscal.
The Procurator Fiscal is the public prosecutor in Scotland. He or she pursues criminal cases in court on behalf of the Crown.
If you are charged with a serious crime you can be detained for up to 140 days. If you are charged with a less serious crime you can only be detained for up to 40 days. Sometimes these periods may be extended.
Summary procedure is the court procedure used to deal with less serious offences. Such cases are dealt with either in the Justice of the Peace Court or the Sheriff Court. In the Justice of the Peace Court a magistrate sits alone and in the Sheriff Court a Sheriff sits alone. There is no jury. The magistrate or Sheriff hears the evidence and gives the verdict. Sentences in Summary Procedure are generally lower than those of Solemn Procedure.
Solemn procedure is the court procedure used to deal with more serious offences. Such cases are dealt with either in the Sheriff Court or in the High Court. These cases all involve a jury. In the Sheriff Court the Sheriff presides and the jury decides the verdict. In the High Court a Judge presides and the jury decides the verdict.
No. Only the more serious crimes under Solemn Procedure are heard before a jury.
A jury in Scotland comprises 15 people, selected from a pool of people who are requested to attend court on that day for jury service. The 15 on the jury are chosen by drawing names at random.
When someone is arrested
No, the police have the right to detain you if they have grounds for believing that you have committed an offence. You can be detained for up to twelve hours initially but at the end of that period the police may, in certain circumstances, detain you for a further twelve hours. Thereafter you must be either released or arrested.
You do not require to answer any questions asked by the police, except for questions put to you in terms of Road Traffic Legislation which require you to answer (see our factsheet on Motoring Offences). If you do answer questions then you should realise that the answers you give can be used as evidence in court. It is usually best not to answer any questions from the police until you have had proper legal advice. You should simply refuse to answer the questions.
No. The police must inform a solicitor and one other person nominated by you, usually a member of your family, of your detention. The police are also required to inform the solicitor where you are being detained and whether you will be released or taken to court.
There will be a duty solicitor whom the police can contact for you if you can’t name the solicitor you wish to have informed of your detention. The duty solicitor is nominated by the Scottish Legal Aid Board to assist people who are in custody but don’t have a solicitor.
You have the right to a telephone conversation with a solicitor to advise you prior to a police interview. A solicitor can also be present at any interview with the police if you request this. The Scottish Legal Aid Board provide this service free of charge. If you wish your own solicitor to be present at an interview, then you may be liable for the costs of their attendance.
If you are kept in custody overnight you will be taken to court on the next court day (i.e. not at the weekend or on a public holiday). Alternatively, the police may give you a date to appear in court or you may receive a summons telling you when to go to court. You must then attend court or you will be liable to arrest.
When someone first appears in court on a criminal charge, if the case can’t be dealt with right away, the court considers whether the person should be released on bail or remanded in custody pending trial. See our factsheet on Bail.
If you are charged with a serious crime you can be detained for 140 days. If you are charged with a less serious crime you can only be detained for 40 days before trial. The prosecution can apply to extend these periods.