Committal for sentence
1. Where, in the magistrates’ court, an offender has been convicted of, or has pleaded guilty to, an either way offence, but the magistrates consider that the penalties available to them are inadequate having regard to the seriousness of the offence or combination of offences, they may commit the offender to the Crown Court for sentencing. Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 (‘PCCSA 2000’), sections 3 to 5. This power applies to both companies and individuals s.3(1)(a) PCCSA 2000’refers to a ‘person’ not an ‘individual’. Companies fall within this definition as they are a legal ‘person’.
2. The magistrates may decide to commit the case to the Crown Court for sentence even though they made a decision at the first hearing that the case was suitable for trial in the magistrates’ court and no new information has been received
3. There is ordinarily no statutory restriction on committing an either way case for sentence following conviction. The general power of the magistrates’ court to commit to the Crown Court for sentence after a finding that a case is suitable for summary trial and/or conviction continues to be available where the court is of the opinion ‘that the offence or the combination of the offence and one or more offences associated with it was so serious that the Crown Court should, in the court’s opinion, have the power to deal with the offender in any way it could deal with him if he had been convicted on indictment.
4. The court should refer to the Definitive Guideline for the sentencing of health and safety cases (see the section on the sentencing hearing) to arrive at the appropriate sentence taking into account all of the circumstances of the case including personal mitigation and the appropriate guilty plea reduction.
5. In the case of an individual, the magistrates have the power to make an order requiring the defendant to provide a statement of his/her financial circumstances which will assist the Crown Court in determining an appropriate sentence (see Preparing for sentencing hearings).
6. Crown Court will notify you when the case is to be heard. You should inform interested parties, such as any injured persons or bereaved families, and the Press Office.
7. Where a solicitor agent was not instructed to represent HSE in the magistrates’ court, you should follow the latest guidance for appointing a solicitor agent/Legal Advisors office as soon as possible after the court’s decision to commit for sentence to the Crown Court.
8. Where solicitor agents represented HSE in the magistrates’ court, they should continue to act and should contact LAO before instructing an advocate to appear in the Crown Court.
9. Crown Court will usually require all witness statements to be typed and you should normally, therefore, arrange for any handwritten statements to be typed as a matter of urgency.
10. You should attend the sentencing hearing to assist counsel. Where the magistrates’ court has held a Newton hearing and made a decision upon it before committing the case, the Crown Court has the power, on committal of an either way offence, to hold a further Newton hearing if it is in the interests of fairness and justice to do so.
11. Where committal for sentence follows a guilty plea in the magistrates’ court, the Crown Court has a discretion to allow the defendant to change his/her plea to not guilty at any time before sentence is passed. The defendant must apply to change a guilty plea as soon as practicable after s/he becomes aware of the grounds for making the application, and s/he may do so only before final disposal of the case. Unless the court directs otherwise, the application must be in writing and include the information set out in the Rule 25.5 Criminal Procedure Rules.. The defendant must serve the application on the court and prosecutor. Cases in which it would be proper to allow a change of plea at this stage “must be comparatively rare” (Lord Parker, CJ in R v Mutford and Lothingland Justices ex parte Harber (see above) at page 299).