proof in absence

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A summary trial may take place in the absence of the defendant, under s 11 of the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980, provided that the court is satisfied that he has received notice of the proceedings and there is no good reason for his absence. In cases commenced by summons, unless the defendant has appeared on a previous occasion in answer to the summons it must be proved to the satisfaction of the court that it was served on him in ‘reasonable’ time before the hearing. In cases tried in the absence of the defendant, the burden remains on the prosecution to prove its case to the normal criminal standard, whether by calling oral evidence or by reading statements served on the accused under s 9 of the Criminal Justice Act 1967. If the case is proved, the court may either proceed immediately to sentence or, in certain circumstances, it may adjourn to give the defendant notice that he should attend for sentencing or issue a warrant for his arrest.

In the Crown Court, the accused must be present at the start of his trial in order to plead. If he subsequently voluntarily absents himself by escaping from custody or by failing to surrender to bail, then the judge has a discretion to complete the trial and pass sentence in his absence: R v Jones (No 2) [1972] 1 WLR 887.

Subjects: Law.

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