Where the accused fails to appear on the required date, the bail money may be forfeited. A warrant for the accused’s arrest will generally issue and the breach of the bond may be certified. Failure to appear to appeal as required while on bail is itself an offence, subject on conviction to up to 12 months’ imprisonment.
If a person fails to appear to a summons, then a bench warrant may be issued for their arrest. Summons for road traffic and public order may be dealt with on the actual date in the summons. Other more serious offences may be adjourned from time to time.
If a person does not appear by reason of illness or accidents or without a good explanation, the person may be remanded in their absence for as long as the court considers reasonable not exceeding 30 days, if in custody.
Adjournment & Remand
An adjournment is the postponement of the case. Where a case is adjourned, in a prosecution under a summons, the accused will ordinarily be permitted to remain at liberty without remand during adjournment.
Adjournment may be granted on the application of the parties if there is a good reason. If an adjournment is peremptory this means that it must proceed on the next occasion or be struck out. Cases may be adjourned while the DPP’’s directions are awaited.
If the accused elects for District Court trial and pleads not guilty, the case will be adjourned for hearing to another date. If a trial on indictment is directed or the judge refuses jurisdiction or the accused elects for trial, he is usually remanded for service of that book of evidence. It is to be served within 42 days of the first appearance in court. This can be extended if there is a good reason.
Where there is a right to elect for (choose) summary trial, the defendant may apply to obtain disclosure of statements in the possession of the prosecution including interviews and statements. Proceedings may be adjourned from time to time.
If a person has been found guilty, there may be an adjournment further for a decision as to sentencing, the preparation of a probation community service order report. The reports may recommend further adjournments to supervise and monitor offenders. The case may be adjourned to allow for payment of compensation.
If a person is remanded in custody, the longest remand is generally 8 days. Remands may be on continuing bail. On a second appearance, the longest further remand without consent is 15 days. If the accused and prosecutor consent, further remand of up to 30 days is allowed.
As person charged with an offence who is not able to afford legal representation may qualify for legal aid. The offence must be sufficiently grave or there must be exceptional circumstances so that the interest of justice requires legal aid. An application is made to the District Court for legal aid. A statement of means must be made available to the District Court. Verbal evidence may be given as to means and outgoings.
Because an offence may carry possibility of imprisonment, it doesn’t necessarily mean that legal aid will be granted. It will usually be granted for most indictable offences even if they are being dealt with summarily through the District Court.
Even though it may not be punishable by imprisonment, the potential consequences may be very serious such as in terms of livelihood. It may be possible to persuade the judge that there are exceptional circumstances.
Exceptional circumstances may also exist where the person is unable to represent himself because of language issues,
- where he does not know or understand the nature of the charge or appreciate its gravity or follow and test the evidence against them and speak on their behalf legal
In these and other exceptional cases, legal aid may be appropriate, even where the offence would not be otherwise sufficiently serious to attract legal aid.
An application is made to the court. If successful, a legal aid certificate is granted by the District Court. The person is entitled to choose a solicitor from the legal aid panel for the relevant court. The court may nominate a solicitor from the panel. It may be a solicitor in the court at the time.
There is an obligation on the prosecution to furnish statements and other evidence where the interests of justice require. The Constitution may require full disclosure of relevant material.
Minor offences may be heard in courts of summary jurisdiction (the District Court) . There is a right to trial by jury for non-minor (serious) offences. Offences are divided into summary and indictable offences.
Strictly speaking, a summary offence is one for which the law specifies only the possibility of disposal by summary procedures. This applies to many regulatory offences.
In the case of many offences, there will be the possibility of trial on indictment or summarily, usually at the behest of the prosecution or other relevant authority. Generally, summary trials are designed for speedy and less formal disposal than trials on indictment.
Trial on Indictment
The principal distinction between a summary offence and one for which there is a right to trial by jury is usually the level of punishment. Broadly speaking, punishment in excess of 12 months or fines more than €5,0000 are likely to be regarded as non-minor offences. Whether the offence is minor or not will also depend on the circumstances relative to the particular defendant.
A significant number of indictable offences are capable of being tried summarily. Some very serious crimes must always be tried on indictment. Some offences may be tried summarily with the consent of the DPP, the court and/ or the accused.
Indictable offences may be tried summarily with a plea of guilty in the District Court with a view to being sent forward for sentence to the Circuit Court or Central Criminal Court.
Triable Either Way
A wide variety of offences may be tried either way depending on the seriousness of the actual circumstances. Most are triable either way at the behest of the prosecutor with the consent of the court.
Another list of offences may be tried either way. The court must be satisfied that the facts proved or alleged constitute a minor offence which is appropriate to try summarily the accused does not object to being tried summarily and the DPP consents.
This applies to a long schedule of offences in the Criminal Justice Act 1951. Over time this list has shortened because new legislation specifies the position, generally with an exclusive option for the prosecution. In the above case, the initial decision rests with the prosecution.
With offences under more modern legislation, the defendant has no right to a trial by jury. The court is usually obliged to ensure that it is a minor offence in the circumstances. Unlike scheduled offences under the 1951 Act, the accused has no right to elect under much of this more modern legislation. The matter is in the hands of the prosecutor and the court.
Send Forward for Sentance
If a person wishes to plead guilty to an offence the court may, with the consent of the DPP, deal with it summarily or forward him for sentence with that plea a court to which he could have lawfully been sent forward for trial.
The court may either deal with the matter summarily and impose summary-type penalties or forward him for a sentence to the Circuit Court. In this case, the offence need not be a minor one. Sending forward applies to more serious offences.
The accused may withdraw a plea of guilty in the court which is sent forward. In this case, the State prepares a book of evidence and serves it.