Frequently Asked Questions

I already know I need a lawyer. Can you help?

Yes we can help, courts can at first glance seem complicated and unfriendly if you are accused of something, but the process is not particularly complex and is made less so by having a lawyer to help and guide you.

Here’s roughly how the whole thing works.

There’s a first appearance at court (often we can go to court for you at this stage), sometimes people are arrested and appear from custody, sometimes they are cited to go to court and may not need to attend the first calling if they have a lawyer; and sometimes there are things called invitation warrants agreed to avoid appearing from custody.

WE DEAL WITH ALL THESE MATTERS IN CRIMINAL COURTS EVERY DAY.

The next stage is either an Intermediate Diet or First Diet or Preliminary Hearing – these are are all different names for a similar type of process at different levels of court. Normally people MUST attend court for this stage with their lawyer. The idea behind these diets, and it is taken very seriously, is to work out if both sides are ready for the trial.

We will go to court together for this.

Then there is a trial diet. Doesn’t matter what level of court you are appearing in the trial diet is always called simply that. By now disclosure will have been received, the defence worked out in detail, funding, either Legal Aid or otherwise established. Meetings will have taken place with your lawyer to go over everything.

We will also go to court with you for this.

There are other types of criminal court hearings, most commonly proofs to deal with matters including breaches of Community Payback Orders and Special Reasons and Exceptional Hardship matters in road traffic cases. We deal with all of these court hearings.

In more detail

We will appear either for you or with you at the first stage, then we’ll get the disclosure (that’s all the evidence against you) and go over it in detail with you. Your defence will be fully prepared. We’ll be at court for the intermediate diet. If there’s a trial then we will conduct the trial, cross examine witnesses, if necessary, put your defence forward and in short defend you.

You can plead guilty at any one of these stages. In fact all lawyers have to advise you that by pleading guilty at an early stage you are often entitled to a discount from any sentence you may receive.

Discounts range in value and are based on something called the utilitarian value of your plea. I suppose you could call that the hassle value. If you plead guilty at an early stage then you save the courts and the Government and the public purse the hassle and cost of arranging for a trial, getting witnesses there, taking up court time, having the whole process go ahead.

In addition, and courts view this bit very seriously, you can save witnesses, especially vulnerable witnesses including children, from having the undoubtedly difficult experience of going to court. This last bit is very important and courts are very anxious to ensure these type of people do not have to go to court unnecessarily.

None of this means you should plead guilty if you are Not Guilty. In fact the law also recognises something called a Plea of Convenience which is when somebody says: “I’ll plead guilty to avoid the hassle”. That’s not allowed, for a whole host of very good reasons including the possibility that at some time in the future you may decide you were never guilty at all and try and have the whole matter raised again.

Even when you plead Not Guilty there will be times during the whole process, especially in road traffic cases, when you will be faced with delays, adjournments, periods of hanging around courts and you will wonder why you put yourself through the whole thing.

We keep you informed at all stages and do all we can to minimise delays and time wasted.

If you need help contact us immediately.

I received court papers through the post and a date that I have to reply to. What should I do?

If you got a bundle of court papers through the post or from a police officer then that’s probably something called a complaint.

It means a case is going to be called in court.

If you don’t have a lawyer get in touch with us now.

The FIRST thing to look for is the page with the DATE THAT YOU MUST ATTEND COURT OR HAVE A LAWYER ATTEND FOR YOU.

That’s the date the case will start. Depending on the type of case you will either need to go or have a lawyer go for you.

We will, of course, go with you or on your behalf for the first calling.

Need to know more…

complaint is the paperwork that whole case is based upon and in amongst all those pieces of paper (about half way through) you will find the actual charge that’s been laid against you. Often there is more than one charge. If there are any previous convictions then they will usually be behind that page. Look out for the Summary of Evidence. That’s a narration of everything that you have been accused of and it usually includes details of who the witnesses are and where the evidence that police are relying on comes from.

The complaint is there to give you notice of what you are charged with and the summary of evidence is there to give you some of the detail.

But…The summary of evidence is only a summary. It is actually based on the Police Report.

That’s the document that the reporting officer, one of the officers who dealt with you, has send to the Crown at the start of the case. Don’t worry if you do not agree with some of this or even all of it. It is actually not a document that is used in court.

In fact you will receive through your lawyer a copy of all the evidence to be used against you in a court case. It’s called disclosure.

Disclosure is normally sent to a person’s lawyer and not directly to an accused.

We have to sign a document called a disclosure undertaking – that sets down strict rules about what can happen with the information.

It usually cannot be copied or taken from the solicitor’s office – except to court of course.

Disclosure is not made available with a Disclosure Undertaking being completed and submitted to the Crown.

Disclosure is made available through a secure Government website.

Disclosure includes full statements.

You will not have to go to trial without knowing everything that everybody is expected to say about you in advance.

It is important to get the ball rolling on disclosure as early as possible. Contact us now.

I was released with an undertaking. What does this mean?

A pink (maybe almost purple ) form is usually an undertaking. An undertaking is a promise by you that if released by the police you will attend court on the date on the form. It’s important to know that if you fail to go to court then a warrant will probably be taken for your arrest. It’s also important to realise that you must go to court personallyWe will, of course, go with you and represent you at court.

Why was I released with an undertaking ? There are a whole variety of reasons why you could have been released. Perhaps the duty sergeant took the view that the offence you were charged with was of a type that could be dealt with at first calling without you having to be kept in a police cell. Perhaps the cells were very busy and the police needing space prioritised the most serious cases and gave undertakings to others. Sometimes the police think it is not in the accused person’s best interests to be kept in a police cell overnight or over the weekend.

Just remember if you have an undertaking then you must go to court on that day and and at that
time. If you have one then call us or text us or email us now.

I’ve been issued an arrest warrant, what are my options?

If there’s a warrant for your arrest and the police are coming then don’t panic. If you don’t have your own lawyer ask for Ron Mackenna Defence at the charge bar of the police station. You should be asked at that point if you want a solicitor notified. You do not need to know our address or phone number. The Police keep a 24-hour contact register of lawyers and Ron Mackenna Defence is on it.

If you have time then call Ron Mackenna on one of the numbers on 0141 229 6700 or one of the numbers on this web page and he will give you advice.

I’ve been released from court on bail, what does this mean?

If you have been released from court it is often, although not always, on Bail. An alternative is to be ORDAINED.

If you appeared in the summary courts you will normally have been given two dates to return. These are the dates for the intermediate diet and the trial diets.

You usually have to return to court on BOTH dates. Unless the court or your lawyer tells you differently.

We will check your court dates for you and advise you when they are. Those dates were read out to you by the Clerk of Court. That is all the official notification you will get of these dates.

If you appeared from custody then the whole process can seem bewildering and two dates mentioned at the end of the process are very hard to remember.

The courts will not write to you and remind you. If you forget… the very fact you were in court when the dates were read out will make it your fault you forget.

If you do not have your own lawyer then we will check and confirm the dates for you.

If you appeared in the solemn courts – that means in private at first without the public being
allowed in – then you will not get a date to return to court.

The dates for your next appearance, the first diet will be served on you along with an IndictmentIf you are appearing in the solemn courts and do not have your own lawyer contact us urgently.

Often nowadays people are liberated from the cells at court. A liberation or libmeans the Crown have decided not to put you through court that day. it may be the end of your case. It may not be.

You may later be sent or served with a citation. Whatever the circumstances if you call us, and do
not have your own lawyer, we can check on the status of your case.

The police want to question me, should I volunteer?

You need to be careful. Firstly are you a being treated as a suspect? We’ ll check that for you. If you are simply a witness then there is not a problem and you do not usually need a lawyer.

If you are to be interviewed about a crime as a suspect or are not sure then contact us urgently. We will contact the police and find out what the police wish to see you about. If you are to be interviewed as a suspect then we will go to the police station with you. Under Scots law you are entitled to legal advice before and if necessary during a S14 police interview.

Often people go to police interviews and waive their rights to see a solicitor when asked. That’s because they think they don’t need one, or its all been a misunderstanding and the police will see that, or simply they are embarrassed and don’t want to make a fuss.

People also come to regret this. Usually after the interview. There is no harm in speaking to us before going to a police interview (if you already have a lawyer then speak to them).

Even if you don’t have a chance to speak to us before then ask for us at the police station. The police must ask you if you want a lawyer notified when you are at the police station to be interviewed in relation to a suspected crime. If you ask for Ron Mackenna he will be phoned and he will speak to you. He will attend at the police station and sit with you during the interview, if necessary.

Here’s some more information if you need it

A) What will happen when I go for an interview at a police station?If you are detained under S14 of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act then you usually will be taken through the back of the police station – to the charge bar – and processed. This can be a strange experience if you haven’t been in a police station before. Your property will be taken from you and stored and and you will be asked a lot of questions during the processing. ITS AT THIS POINT THAT YOU WILL FIRST BE ASKED IF YOU WANT A SOLICITOR NOTIFIED.We would advise you to always say yes AND ask to speak to the solicitor. YOU do not need to know more than the solicitor’s name. Ron Mackenna Defence Lawyers are on the police duty scheme. All contact details are kept on a register. The police will contact him.

B) Is being detained a bad thing? Surprising as this may sound it is often in your interest to be detained rather than simply have an interview with a police officer on a voluntary or non-detention basis. This is because the law swings into place to protect your rights the minute detention starts. This is not simply by allowing you access to and advice from a solicitor – but because the clock also starts ticking. In most cases you can only be detained for 12 hours without charge. Though that can under certain circumstances, and with certain safeguards, be extended to 24 hours.

C) Will you advise me to make No Comment? If you ask for us to be contacted then we will give you advice on the interview. Often that advice will be to make NO COMMENT – though not in all cases. No comment does not make you look guilty. It does not mean you have something to hide. It is your right to make no comment and in almost all cases it cannot be held against you. A no comment interview is often treated as something that simply didn’t happen.

D) Will the police just stop asking as soon as I say No Comment? The answer to that is no. Many police are trained in interview techniques. They may have prepared your interview by writing out their questions in an interview plan. You won’t see that. Normally one officer takes the lead and the second chips in and asks a few questions near the end. In case anything is missed. The police may expect you to make No Comment and they will be prepared for that.

They will ask you many questions. At first the questions will seem friendly, uncontroversial, chatty. Based on my experience people who start answering these questions then find they simply cannot stop talking. It may be the case that these questions are designed to relax you or simply it may be that the police know that once people start answering some questions they very often find it hard to stop.

It is actually quite difficult to repeatedly say: No Comment. For a variety of reasons including manners; simple politeness; it seems rude not to help the police,; the fact that very rarely in life are we in a situation where we say straight to someone’s face that we are not answering their questions, and many more reasons.

It is rarely wise to think you can second guess the police, or only answer questions that suit you. For a start commenting in some parts and answering No Comment at other parts of a police interview can make it look like you were hiding something when the recording or transcript is later used in court. The police are not there to prove a crime against you. They are there to gather enough evidence to give the crown what is called a sufficiency of evidence. That can allow a case to be started against you. Sometimes simply admitting you were at such and such a place is enough to start a case against you. Even if your position is that you didn’t do anything. It is common in assault cases for people to talk about acting in self-defence not realising that simply saying you were involved may be enough to complete the evidence needed to start a prosecution. If that is the case the courts will decide whether it is self-defence. Not the police.

By the time the police come to interview you they may well have carried out a thorough investigation. They may come into the interview armed with information you know nothing about. Or could know nothing about. To attempt to answer questions that are being effectively sprung upon you is rarely a good idea. What’s more: would you really want to be involved in a prolonged memory test without having had advance warning about what you were doing on such and such a day, or days, at such and such a time. Or times. It rarely looks good if you get something wrong. For all these reasons and more relying on No Comment can be as a result of good advice. But every case is different.

4) What if you have something to say? There are circumstances when it may be wise to say something in a police interview – if that is the case we will advise you of it.