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Your Rights as a Defendant in Court

By: Liz Lennox - Updated: 4 Oct 2020 | comments*Discuss
Crime Court Law Legal Judicial Crimes

As we all know, just because a person is charged with a crime it does not mean that they are guilty. The principle of innocent until proven guilty still holds true and for this very reason the defendant must have rights in court.

The law governing defendant’s rights is in a constant state of flux, new laws are passed to combat increased crime, reduce costs of dispensing justice and fight terrorism just as they are passed to prevent miscarriages of justice.

The inclusion of the European Convention on Human Rights has only served to re-emphasise the importance of a fair trial.


If you are questioned, but not charged, the Police can release you on bail on the basis that you must come back for further questioning at a later date. If you have been charged they can still release you on bail unless:

  • There is a suspicion that you have not given your correct name and address
  • You are a threat to yourself or others
  • You will abscond

They can also give you conditional bail citing where you must live or a curfew etc.

If the Police have kept you in custody then the Court can decide to give you bail, conditional or otherwise, and they can decide that you needed to be kept in custody if:

  • You will abscond
  • There is a strong possibility you will commit further offences
  • You will threaten or otherwise interfere with witnesses


The rules and procedures governing the Court system are nothing short of a mystery to the majority of people, no matter how many crime dramas you watch. That is why it is always in your best interest to obtain your own legal representation. There is nothing stopping you defending yourself, in fact you have a right to do so if you wish, but the situation is likely to be emotionally charged, as well as complex, and it may be best to have someone who is not as close to the situation as you are; someone who can guide you through it all with a clear head.


If you plead not guilty to the charge against you the Court will set a date for your trial. You and your solicitor will then need to make arrangements for any witnesses you need to be available at that time.

When the proceedings start the Prosecution will open the proceedings and set out their case against, stating exactly how they intend to prove you guilty of the crime. You should bear in mind that that ‘Burden of Proof’ is on them, not you. They are required to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you are guilty. It is not for you to prove that you are innocent.

Once the prosecution has finished setting out their case it then becomes your turn, along with your defence team, to open your case and set out all the ways in which they will prove that you are not guilty. Your witnesses and evidence will be called and only when both teams have spoken will the Jury will be allowed to consider all of the information given to them.


If you are found guilty at trial, or if you plead guilty at the outset, the Court must then decide on a suitable sentence. They are required to take account of all mitigating factors, not just look at the crime itself. The options available to the Court range from Compensation orders to full custodial sentences.

European Convention on Human Rights

Article 6 of the Convention clearly states that, irrespective of your supposed crime, you have the right to a fair trial. Included in the convention is the right to a public hearing along:
  • Time to gather your evidence
  • The right to defend yourself, or have Counsel provided for you at no cost
  • The right to cross-examine the witnesses against you
  • The right to have a free interpreter

In Summary

Many of the rights in the Convention where already in existence in this Country but the Convention has re-affirmed one of the most basic tenets of our legal system; fairness and justice for all.

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[Add a Comment]
Do you trust the Crown courts and there justice. In Britain. As an English man I don't trust them. After 18 months on remand. Losing my home job.and my freedom. Never been abal to mend this. A hate them now. What would you do if you where inercent in the begin. Hang your self. Pleaed guilty. Or be come a terrerist against the crown of justice. For the illness they gave you with there justice. Robert.
Bobbob - 4-Oct-20 @ 3:51 PM
I was arrested for aggravated burglary and section 18 wounding, I was bailed it went on for 16 months, the goal posts was moved and statements changed to suit alternative but still serious charges by a corrupt DC, eventually came trial day at leamington crown court, the high court judge sitting the bench said before swearing in the the jury that it’s absolutely obvious what had gone on and not that of what the police or victim(s) had stated and it would not go to trial, a alternative charge of public order act was put to me, I pleaded guilty and give 100 hours community service and £100 fine, the whole process cost me a nice little figure of just under £7000 legal fees & court costs, for a charge that should had of been dealt with properly and professionally been dealt with in a magistrate’s court! Where I would not of needed to go to crown court or need a barrister. I would have pleaded guilty to whatI did and was eventually convicted of.
KJL03 - 9-Mar-20 @ 11:12 AM
I got with my ex partner 2 years ago he had been to prison and got a 10-year licence on his licence conditions he had to notify if he got into a relationship which we did for the Beginning when we were just dating when we decided to pursue the relationship his probation officer granted first two nights overnight because he spoke with children's services and they was happy I could safeguard my children everything was great he was rehabilitated and we never had any issues in are relationship I fell pregnant we notify probation and the children services everything was still fine when I got to 35 weeks pregnant we put a letter in to ask to live together as our baby was born soon 2 months later the social services came in saying they needed to do some risk assessments after question why this was because they was not allowed at my address or near my children and they said they did not carry out the correct assessment from the beginning cut a long story short we went through the PLO process when that's finished they decided to take it to court because they could not decide on if we could be together and it been more of a fair trial 5 minutes before going into the courtroom they decided they would not support the relationship we were still fighting to be together as we had never any issues in our relationship use on good behaviour with survationhe had a full time job they kept threatening me if I carried on pursuing fighting for our relationship I could have my children took away we decided it the end the relationship we ended our relationship but told them we're still friends and will still support each other for a child they was fine with that I even saw a forensic psychologist me and my partner and he gives the go ahead but still saying he may deem high-risk because he suffers from PTSD but he got help with that the children's services did not believe his reports now I'm going through care proceedings even though I've ended the relationship all because we talked on the phone most days as I child is very poorly we ened it areourselves but now they are going to town on me saying we don't believe you've ended the relationship I have done everything they have asked of me and tried I've been bullied by the cafcass children's guardian I've even got a recording of this they've never done the job they said they were doing some beginning saying that was going to help us be together Iv been manipulated what are my human rights in this situation and my son human rights as I'm still going through the court proceedings I'm desperate for help thank you
Emma83x - 23-Jun-19 @ 10:48 PM
I have been getting bullied threatened called names online and offline I have also witnessed two young mums swearing and shouting at their kids in the street I have also had threats as well and called names my doctor knows about it all and knows about the threats I've had
Ange - 15-Jun-19 @ 9:06 AM
I was remanded In barlinnie from Feb to 4th of April 2019 I was found not guilty in court I was told by my solicitor that I should not have been remanded and the only reason I was because of a previous conviction. I've suffered from mental health issues for many years now which hasn't helped I came out having my ESA benefit payment stopped I'm in dept with the housing association and council tax I've had my gas cut off and had no benefits or help its been 4weeks now off non stop stress and I've been told I won't get my benefit back and will need to claim universal credit which I've tried to do they make it difficult to claim anything it doesn't help with my mental health I just don't know what to do anymore or who can help the welfare rights people were useless I've been fobbed off by every department there is shouldn't I be entitled to some help compensation??? My life shouldn't be ruined because of some scumbags who falsely accuse people for there own entertainment can anyone help???
Nix - 8-May-19 @ 8:51 PM
Well my boyfriend has been in jail going on 10months already for teft of property charges and some other dumb cases that they put on him he hasnt went to court not 1 time hasnt even seen his lawyer and now they set him up for trail for the end of april what can i do to help him? Isnt what there doing violation of his constitunial rights?
Erica - 9-Apr-19 @ 3:04 PM
Police called at my house told me my (40 year old) son had been arrested, they would not tell me what for, he had never been in contact with police in his life, they asked me to come with them for a voluntary interview (they would not tell what about) I said I would once I'd found out about my son. The police said they would arrest me if I didn't agree to go with them now for a voluntary interview, which they did. At the police station I was locked in a cell, later that day at interview I was told I had been accused of uploading a video entitled 'Michael Huke' onto YouTube showing me being attacked by him a senior Lloyds Banker, which discredited him in front of his staff, causing harassment. The same charge was brought against my son, we both denied the charge and were released.
Dee Plorable - 9-Apr-19 @ 12:51 PM
Hi, police arrived at my house and arrested me for a no show at court, put me in jail overnight, then put me in court the next day. Long story short they apparenyly sent a summonds to the wrong address. When the incorrect address was discovered they didn't care or apologise. Just treated me like a criminal. Do I get any kind of compensation for this traumatic experience? The public defender they gave me said this happens all the time. How can the legal system be this bad.
M - 29-Mar-19 @ 11:29 AM
My son was sentence 20 life for the murder he didnt commit. Tracy - 12-Jul-18 @ 6:57 PM Please contact me i have simillar problem likeyou.Lets talk please. Regards Kate
Kate - 21-Jan-19 @ 3:09 AM
Me and my partner where arrested for affray in January this year. We were on a train and heard crying and shouting. We were led to believe a girl age 17 had been touched by a 40ish year old man. We comforted her and asked her who it was. She pointed at the man who out of no where threw a punch towards me but missed. My partner thought he had hit me so got off the train and it all ended up in a big fight (no one injured) when we seen the cctv the next day it looked bad on us as we just looked like we were the only ones hitting the man. We didn’t hear anything else until August when we got told we were going to be charged with common assault. Our solicitor has told us to plead not guilty because we believe we acted in self defence (but it doesn’t look like that on cctv) we have been to court once and now it’s going to a 2 day trial (in magistrates) this is both our first time offence. What kind of sentencing do you think we are looking at?
Al92 - 7-Nov-18 @ 3:57 PM
I was a charged with embezzlement on 26th January 2018 but nine months later still don't know if the case is going ahead. My solicitor checked back in July and it was showing still as case pending. J live in Scotland.
Stevemac - 30-Oct-18 @ 2:14 PM
My nephew was denied bail twice we are trying to gett him out of prison and Into a program. What can we don
Bevey - 18-Oct-18 @ 9:17 PM
I need to ask a question but there’s only a comment section. I was stopped for traffic offence. I recived acitation. Asking me to declare my plea. Guilty or not guilty. The wrong address is on the original horrti and on my charge sheet in my citation. So how can I plead to the charge in question if it never took place at that location.
Mckjimmy - 16-Aug-18 @ 7:43 PM
My son was given a 18 year sentence for murder i no ihe didn't do this but to cut along story shirt I was at court every day and do belive to this he got a fare trial, by the judge or his own solicitor and I also think the jury were disgusting one asleep one doing her nail, but my question is how do i get to look at all the paper work from beginning to end of my sons trial he wants me have a look as I'm taking this further thank you for your time
Tracy - 12-Jul-18 @ 6:57 PM
My son is in court for domestic violence, he has been accused of hitting this girl all the way through a 6 year relationship, she has said they split in October 2017 and knew him 2 yrs previously to the 2 yr relationship. He has then seen her and jumped out of the car and tried to strangle her in April 2018. My son met her new years eve 2017 and had a relationship with her for 4 month,then split up with her, on the day he's jumped out of the car she ran off and all he did was shout I want my stuff back to her, problem we have is she has a new boyfriend and he's given a statement saying he strangled her too, I'm so worried he is going to be convicted for something he hasn't done.
Andis - 10-Jul-18 @ 12:57 AM
My son was arrested early hours on new years day for a fight but called assault as he got the better of the other person, the police released him without charge later that day. On 4th july he has now recieved a court summons for assault and my son is very worried and anxious as he has Autism, can they do this after all this time? Does he have to attend court? As i don't think he will cope with commuicating, He is so worried as he has a job in a hospital he might lose his job. Would really apprecite any advice thanks.
Wags - 4-Jul-18 @ 7:25 PM
I didn't have my train ticket in my purse but had the out ticket and recipt. I also had my sons ticket. I went to court pleaded not guilty. So I was told its gone back to original court area I travelled. It was hers on Monday told not to attend and to attend in 5 days time. I've herd nothing. Worried. As it says on letter not attending is a prison sentence. Really shocked they can't just look at my receipt.
Chickadee - 3-Jul-18 @ 8:45 PM
my mates left 20 grams off heroin in my flat went to get some cold drinks and I was feeling ill gave it 10 minutes and I felt like I was having a stroke couldn't speak so I phoned my mum told her I thought I was dieing ( was recovering from an infection in the spine)so she called 999 and 10 minute later the paramedics and cops come my house was full ov people then I passed out any way 5 months later the police say there was a wrap off class A on my table I didn't know what they was talking about and told them do you think if I knew there was drugs in my flat I would leave them there and not dusty them or move them they said why did your mates(so called!) not come back for them? , like they would when theres 2 cop cars and paramedics parked out side my flat that voluntary interview was 5 months ago I stressed every day that I'm bona get a summons in the post and I'm still at the hospital 7 times a month some one give me advice am I guilty or a victim waiting in limbo to go to hell any way I'm gonna try to get some rest thank you for reading and if any one can help me CRAIG
craig wood - 26-Jun-18 @ 11:00 PM
I made a statement about a fight I got into the lad went to court ( youth court) we both under 16, He pleaded not guilty what happens if I didn't turn up to the trial to give evidence against him.
Brian - 25-Jun-18 @ 10:09 PM
My brother got charged for affray, It is his first conviction and there might be 2 witnesses is jail time involved or is there a chance to fight it and get a section 10
Sabz - 19-Jun-18 @ 7:07 AM
My bro5her is dead now but his daughter decided to bring up an old rape case which my brother was found unanimously not guilty. Can she still tell my family that he did it ? .
pat - 15-Jun-18 @ 3:53 AM
Hi, I’m due to appear in crown court sometime next week and my legal team has just informed me that the officer in case Who presented partial evidence to the cps will not be attending as he is signed off sick.
Mamz - 13-Jun-18 @ 7:42 PM
G - Your Question:
I was in Wandsworth HMP awaiting Crown Court and I was granted bail by a judge but was not released until much later the judge told me I'm entitled to compensation but how do I go about getting it without legal aid

Our Response:
You can sometimes respresent yourself but ask at Citizens' Advice as they may be able to tell you how to find low cost solicitors or those who will offer a first session free etc.
AboutHumanRights - 22-May-18 @ 3:17 PM
I was in Wandsworth HMP awaiting Crown Court and I was granted bail by a judge but was not released until much later the judge told me I'm entitled to compensation but how do I go about getting it without legal aid
G - 16-May-18 @ 5:56 PM
mac - Your Question:
I have been found guilty on 2 charges and not guilty on 2.my sentencing keeps getting put off, do I have the right to insist on sentance taking place

Our Response:
We don't actually know and can't find this information. Perhaps your solicitor will be able to tell you.
AboutHumanRights - 15-May-18 @ 3:09 PM
i have been found guilty on 2 charges and not guilty on 2. my sentencing keeps getting put off, do i have the right to insist on sentance taking place
mac - 11-May-18 @ 8:59 PM
I had an appearance at Kirkcaldy JP court on 24/4/18 just a motoring offence BTW,,I already had a fine outstanding that I'd fallen behind with,,Yesterday 3/5/18 I get a letter from the polis to tell me there is a warrant out for non appearance at court about falling behind with fine payments,,I never received notification I had to go to court,but the motoring offence I was up for was on the same day at the sae court they say I failed to appear at.now surly if I'm in the ock on another matter they could have done my means enquiry at that time,,if I wasn't going to turn up for the means enquirybi wouldn't have turned up at all,the system is a joke
jammy - 4-May-18 @ 6:20 AM
If someone has been found guilty of a crime Why does the court keep adjourning the sentencing 4 times now And why are they allowed out of the country And why are their assets not frozen ?
Hitman - 26-Apr-18 @ 12:57 PM
i recieved a sentence/judgement on my case month before hearing, is that a fraud. how do i sue magistrates clerk (his name and rank on letter) or court for this..
luce - 19-Apr-18 @ 12:03 PM
My 13 year old granson just got arrested for assault and i would like to know if he is able to get let out on bail
martin - 13-Apr-18 @ 12:13 AM
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