Law Society Scotland

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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.


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.

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Reasons to choose us

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  • Legal Aid or Private
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