What is it and who is it issued by?
If you’ve been charged with a minor criminal offence, you may have your case dealt with by a Single Justice Procedure Notice (SJPN). This means that your case will be decided by a magistrate without you having to go to court. Prosecutors that can bring a case include the police, local authorities and the DVLA.
SJPN’s can be given to adults accused of minor offences that cannot result in a prison sentence, for example some driving offences, TV licence evasion and train fare evasion.
How is the process different to a normal court hearing?
You will receive a notice which may provide brief details of the evidence upon which the prosecutor will rely, together with the options available to you. Although you won’t be summoned to a specific court date, you will be asked to respond to the notice within 21 days.
If you plead guilty to the offence, and indicate that you would like to have the matter dealt with in your absence, a single magistrate will consider the case on the basis of the evidence submitted in writing by the prosecutor and any written mitigation you have provided. The magistrate will then decide whether to convict and sentence you, or dismiss the charge.
You do have the option to have your case heard at court; you’ll need to request this when responding to the notice. If you request a court hearing you will be sent a letter with the date, time and venue.
Pleading not guilty
If you plead not guilty to the offence you will need to go to court to present your case. If you’d like to take any witnesses with you, you will need to provide details of this when you return the notice.
It is not essential to have legal representation in court and some people are happy to represent themselves. However many will prefer to either seek advice from a solicitor prior to submitting their plea or have a solicitor represent them at the hearing.
If you plead not guilty but do not attend the court your case will be heard in your absence.
If you do not respond
If you don’t respond by the due date, the court will decide your case in your absence.
If you attend the court hearing you will be given the decision there and then. If you have pleaded guilty or have been found guilty this will include details of any financial penalty.
If you’re not in court then a letter will be sent to you.
Is it recorded on the Police National Computer (PNC)?
Most SJPN’s are for non-recordable offences, meaning they are not normally recorded on the PNC. If it’s not recorded on the PNC, it will not be disclosed on criminal record checks.
However, we have been advised by HMCTS that it would be factually incorrect to say that all SJP offences are non-recordable. As a result, we do not have details on whether it is classed as a conviction, when it becomes spent, whether you have to declare it or whether it is disclosed on criminal record checks. We will update this section once we have more information.
Problems with the Single Justice Procedure Notice procedure
SJPN’s are sent via normal post (not recorded or special delivery) and you only have a limited time in which to deal with them. If, for whatever reason, you do not receive your SJPN or don’t deal with it quickly enough, you could find yourself being found guilty of an offence in your absence and without your knowledge. If you’re unaware that you’ve been found guilty of the initial charge then you may unwittingly commit another more serious offence which could carry more severe penalties.
Having received the SJPN, you are expected to enter a guilty or not guilty plea usually without seeing any of the evidence upon which the police/prosecutor seek to rely. Once you’ve entered a guilty plea, it is very difficult to retract it.
it is not uncommon for people to indicate one plea but then provide additional information on the online form which contradicts the plea. In this situation, the court will have to adjourn and ask that you attend in person.
Under SJP there is a blanket assumption that an individuals income is based on the current national average for pre-tax earnings. Unless the court receives evidence to the contrary, that income level will be used to assess the ability to pay a fine.