Criminal trial held in the absence of the defendant
Criminal trial held in the absence of the defendant

The following Corporate Crime guidance note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Criminal trial held in the absence of the defendant
  • Trial in absence in the magistrates' court
  • Trial in absence in the Crown Court
  • Death of the accused
  • Duties of defence representatives

In both the magistrates’ court and the Crown Court, proceeding with a trial in the absence of the defendant is a last resort and is one which the courts will try to avoid unless necessary. In R v Jones, the House of Lords held that the decision to hold a trial in the absence of a defendant must:

‘...be exercised with great caution and with close regard to the overall fairness of the proceedings; a defendant afflicted by involuntary illness or incapacity will have much stronger grounds for resisting the continuance of the trial than one who has voluntarily chosen to abscond.’

Conducting a trial in the absence of a defendant has the potential to cause prejudice not only to the absent defendant, but also to any codefendants and can be confusing to a jury. In order to ensure that defendants understand the potential implications of any deliberate non-attendance at trial, and to allow the court to justly impose the consequences, the Criminal Procedure Rules 2015 (CrimPR), SI 2015/1490 require that Crown Courts must satisfy themselves that it has been explained to a defendant (who has pleaded not guilty or indicated no plea), in terms that the defendant understands, that the trial may take place in the defendant’s absence should they fail to attend. An identical obligation also applies in the magistrates’