The UK judicial system is split into two main categories: civil and criminal matters. While my experience with the county court shed some light on the civil justice system, my encounter with the magistrate's court and the crown court opened up a whole new world to me.
Unlike civil matters, criminal cases have a lot more at stake. I remember feeling like I was in a movie when I first walked into the courtroom. I was placed in a glass box at the back of the room. It was a surreal experience, especially since I was accustomed to sitting next to my solicitor in front of the judge.
Before my first criminal hearing, I had taken advice from various people, and I knew that, at the very worst, I would be given a fine - which I, fortunately, had the resources to pay. As the proceedings progressed, however, I realized that things could go wrong - that judges and juries could be persuaded by a view that was not favourable to me, regardless of the amount of evidence behind my case.
What amazed me during my experience was the sheer power that the prosecution has to change or reformulate charges at any time, in any way, and to whomever they want. They could do this irrespective of the evidence required. This can make it difficult for an individual to defend themselves, as the charges may change frequently, requiring a reformulation of the defence every time, which can cost a lot of time and money.
In my case, the council had accused me of running unlicensed HMOs (houses in multiple occupation). The council was tipped off by a neighbouring council but had dropped all the charges against me the night before the trial. They knew they would lose because I was innocent and they did not have enough evidence to prove any case against me. Nevertheless, they managed to make me spend money to defend my case until the very end.
My experience with the UK criminal justice system has taught me a lot. While it is true that there are many pitfalls to navigate, having the right resources and legal team can make all the difference. It has also taught me that one can never be too careful and that even in seemingly safe situations, things can go wrong. I hope that my experience can help others who may be navigating the UK criminal justice system and that they will come out on the other side with a positive outcome.
Wishing you luck with the UK criminal justice system,