Hearings: Plea and Trial Preparation Hearing (PTPH)

This is usually the first hearing in the Crown Court that a case receives. Formally, the PTPH is to settle two issues. Firstly, the defendant should expect to be arraigned. This means that he will formally enter his plea against a properly drafted indictment. An indictment is a document which sets out the charges that a defendant will face. When a client is ‘arraigned’ they will be formally recording their plea against the Court record. It is an important step in a cases progression.

The Court will then consider steps to help prepare the case. This will usually involve setting directions for the rest of the case. This is usually divided into four ‘stages’ as follows:

Stage 1: Initial disclosure by the prosecution: This requires the prosecution to disclose any unused material which might reasonably be considered capable of undermining the prosecution case or of assisting the case for the accused.

Stage 2: commonly referred to as “Defence disclosure”: This is made by a defence statement (sometimes referred to as a “defence case statement”), which is mandatory in Crown Court cases and voluntary in magistrates’ court cases. The defence also have to disclose to the prosecutor and the court advance details of any witnesses they intend to call at a trial (see paragraph 14 below).

Stage 3: Continuing duty of disclosure by the prosecution: The prosecutor must keep under review throughout the criminal proceedings the question of whether there is material which might reasonably be considered capable of undermining the prosecution case or of assisting the case for the accused. This duty specifically arises following receipt of a defence statement and when details of the issues in dispute in a prosecution have been recorded on the effective trial preparation form.

Stage 4: Any additional issues This stage will be the point at which the case is expected to be ready for trial. Any legal arguments should be resolved and the case should be ready to proceed.

Dates for these stages are normally set at the PTPH. The defence will also be directed to serve their ‘witness requirements’, or which witnesses are required to attend and give evidence. The defence will need to request any witness with whom they take issue to attend and give evidence. Witnesses who are agreed will not be required to attend as there is no need to have them cross examined.

Both the Crown and the defence are expected to cooperate in advance of the PTPH by completing the PTPH form. An example of the form can be found here.