Criminal offences vary in severity and in how they are punished. The judge or magistrate will decide the type of sentence you receive according to the sentencing guidelines and the law. The severity of the events will depend on two main factors: the harm that has been caused or intended to be caused and the culpability of the offender. You can receive a discharge, fine, community sentence, or custodial sentence.
A discharge is when the court finds you guilty of an offence; however, because the offence is minor, you do not receive a sentence. There are two types of discharges: absolute and conditional discharges. If you are on a conditional discharge, then it is important that you do not breach the conditions and do not commit the offence again.
Fines are perhaps the most common type of sentence given by the court, and the amount of the fine depends on the severity of the offence and how much the offender can pay according to their income. Fines should not be taken lightly since the court has the power to impose unlimited fines. Courts have wide-ranging powers to collect fines, and sometimes this may be in addition to time in prison.
A community sentence is a type of punishment that demands that you carry out community service unpaid for a certain number of hours; this is when you are convicted of a crime but not sent to prison. The punishment is in proportion to the seriousness of the crime. For example, the more serious the crime, the more hours of community service you will have to do, and this could include litter picking, cleaning, removing graffiti, redecorating community centres and other public buildings and working for charities. If you are unemployed, you may have to work three or four days a week; if you are not, the hours will be arranged outside of your working hours for example evenings and weekends.
Fines and community sentences are non-custodial sentences; they are alternatives to prison sentences, and your criminal solicitor will try their best to help you receive the minimum sentence possible for your crime. This is why you must speak to a criminal solicitor even if you have committed a minor offence. If you wrongly implicate yourself in the offence, the sentence may be more serious, and you will face greater consequences than you would have with legal advice and support.
A custodial sentence is a sentence of imprisonment for some time, depending on the nature of the crime. You must have a criminal solicitor to defend your case to avoid a custodial sentence. Unfortunately, some crimes are only punishable with a custodial sentence; these are certain indictable offences that are the most serious of offences according to the law in the UK and include murder and rape.
If you are convicted of an indictable offence, you may receive a longer custodial sentence, which can change your life. It will affect not only you but also your loved ones. You may have to spend many years in prison; therefore, regardless of what offence you have been accused of, speak to a criminal solicitor from the onset. From the moment you are arrested or invited for an interview under caution, your criminal solicitor should be present. They will advise you on how you should conduct yourself throughout the process, collect evidence and witnesses that help your defence, deal with the paperwork and speak to the authorities on your behalf where possible. They will also use their extensive knowledge and experience to represent you in court to the best of their ability.
Different types of court
There are three types of courts according to your offence. The magistrates’ court deals with summary offences, which are minor, and either-way offences, which may be summary offences or indictable offences. If the offence is indictable, they are passed to the Crown Court, which deals with serious criminal offences, for example, murder, rape and robbery.
The Youth Court is a magistrates’ court for young people between the ages of 10 and 17; it is less formal than the magistrates’ court, and the public is not allowed. Some cases may begin in the Youth Court; however, if the offence is indictable, it will then be passed to the Crown Court. Speak to your criminal solicitor if you are arrested by the police or are invited for an interview to ensure you achieve the best possible outcome.