Criminal Law

Criminal Lawyers Scotland

What happens next...

If you have been arrested or detained by the police, or have been charged with an offence, it is vitally important that you know as quickly as possible your rights and options. Give us a call and we will act swiftly to make sure that everything is in order. We can then represent you in Court if necessary and advise you fully throughout your case.

There are four ways you can be prosecuted in Scotland – on summary complaint in the Justice of the Peace Court, on summary complaint in the Sheriff Court, on indictment in the Sheriff Court and on indictment in the High Court. You will see from the papers you were served with which one applies to you.

The Justice of the Peace Court

Since April 2010, minor cases in this area are all heard in the Justice of the Peace (JP) Court at Dumbarton, situated in the Sheriff Court building, and we can represent you in this court as well as in other JP Courts around Scotland. These courts deal with less serious cases, for example vandalism, less serious road traffic offences that often carry penalty points (and perhaps disqualification), shoplifting, minor drug possession offences, assault and breach of the peace. However, you can still be fined several hundred pounds in these kinds of cases, and in a road traffic case you could lose your licence for up to six months.

Whilst such cases are not always serious, you will always be prosecuted by a qualified lawyer, and the rules of evidence and procedure are the same as in more serious cases. So if you are in any doubt about how to proceed, contact us and check your entitlement to Criminal Legal Aid right away.

The Sheriff Court

The local Sheriff Court is in Church Street, Dumbarton. Most criminal cases from the area are heard here. In summary cases, the Sheriff has the power to send you to prison for up to twelve months (more if you were on bail at the time). This court will deal with more serious cases, for example assaults to injury (particularly domestic offences), frauds, drink-driving and dangerous driving offences, more serious drugs offences, racist conduct, possession of offensive weapons and knives, and thefts by housebreaking or opening lockfast motor vehicles. You may well be eligible for Legal Aid in cases like this. If you plead Not Guilty, your lawyer (and only your lawyer) is entitled to ask the prosecution to disclose the evidence it has against you, so it is important that you instruct a solicitor to find this information.

More serious cases are heard in the Sheriff Court before a jury. In these cases the Sheriff can sentence you to up to five years' imprisonment, and therefore this procedure is only used for serious cases, such as serious assaults, supplying drugs, and sexual offences. Unlike England, you have no right to ask for a trial by jury - here, this decision is one for the prosecutor.

The High Court

This deals with only the most serious of cases. Murder, rape, robbery of commercial premises, major drug dealing, serious sexual abuse, and assaults involving firearms will go to the High Court. You can only be represented by an Advocate or a Solicitor Advocate in the High Court.

Our Douglas Thomson has been a Solicitor Advocate since 2002, and we can represent you, therefore, in all the criminal courts of Scotland. Since December 2004, the procedures in the High Court have become very complex and specialised, and anyone facing trial in the High Court must keep in constant touch with their lawyer throughout.

Appeal Court

In some circumstances, you have a right of appeal against a decision made in a lower court. This is almost always on a point of law, and therefore you should always take advice from a lawyer as to whether you should appeal, and if so, how. Appeals are now either to the Sheriff Appeal Court in summary cases or to the High Court in more serious cases, sitting with either two judges (appeals against sentence) or three or more judges (appeals against conviction). As before, the only lawyers allowed to appear in the High Court are Advocates and Solicitor Advocates, and most appeals in the Sheriff Appeal Court are conducted by experienced appeal court lawyerswhich means that Douglas could represent you in an Appeal and advise you fully on your chances of success.

Criminal Lawyers Helensburgh and Dumbarton, Scotland

As soon as possible after you have been arrested, detained or charged, or even if you wish to appeal a decision you have already received in Court, just email us or telephone us on 01389 762266 and we will guide you through your options.

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