75 Buccleuch Street, Dumfries

01387 259236
01387 259292

Criminal Law

From a breach of the peace to a murder charge, we have the experience and qualifications to handle any problems you may have with the criminal law. Ranald Lindsay was one of the first solicitor-advocates in Scotland, so we can represent you personally in any criminal case at any level of court in Scotland – Justice of the Peace, Sheriff Court, High Court or Appeal Court.

You will always get an honest answer about your case, and we’ll keep you up to date with what is happening on your case.

You may be eligible for legal aid to help with your fees.

Criminal Law – Who’s who and what happens in court?

  • Criminal Law Cases in Scotland are prosecuted by “The Crown”, (i.e. the government) either through the local Procurator Fiscal, or Crown Office. Both are civil service organisations.
  • There is no equivalent in Scotland of an individual who has reported a crime “dropping the charges”. In many cases – for example domestic cases – the prosecution will ignore what the person who reported the crime says after the case has started. They feel that this reduces the risk of the “victim” being pressured into changing their story.
  • There are two types of procedure in court for a criminal charge:
    • Summary cases are heard by the Justice of the Peace Court or Sheriff Court. They are set up for a trial before the magistrates in the JP Court, or the Sheriff sitting alone in the Sheriff Court. There is no jury.
    • Solemn cases are heard in the Sheriff Court and the High Court. They are set up for a trial before the Sheriff with a jury in the Sheriff Court, or a Judge with a jury in the High Court.
    • Solemn procedure is for the more serious cases, with the High Court dealing with the most serious. Summary cases are for more common offences, but can still carry sentences of imprisonment if convicted.
    • The prosecution decide which procedural route the case will follow. There is no right in Scotland for an accused person to ask for trial by jury.
    • Cases which start off under solemn procedure can be reduced to summary procedure if the prosecution feel that the charge is less serious than they first thought.
    • The charges against you in a summary case are explained in a document called a complaint.
    • The charges against you in a solemn case are explained in a document called a petition at the early stage. The explanation of the charges in the petition is a bit like a first draft of the charges. Later, you’ll receive another document called an indictment. This will have the final form of the charges and other information.

In the Police Station

  • You may receive a fixed penalty notice for some minor offences. If you do, and you do nothing, then this can count as a conviction without you ever having been to court. These can be challenged, but you need to do it. Call us if you’re not sure.
  • If you are arrested, you can ask the police to inform a solicitor, and one other named person, such as your next of kin.
  • If the police are going to question you, they have to advise you of your right to speak to a solicitor first. You can ask to speak to your own solicitor, or there is a government helpline whose solicitors can speak to you over the telephone.
  • You are entitled to have a face-to-face consultation with a solicitor before being interviewed and solicitors experienced in criminal law are usually able to do this.
  • Remember, anything you say may be recorded and used against you in evidence in court! You don’t have to say anything and very often it’s best simply to say “no comment”. That’s what your rights to see a solicitor are for, so if you’re in that situation, call!

Charges and Evidence

  • If you get any court papers, or you are told to go to court on a certain day, see your solicitor as soon as possible!
  • The prosecution has to be able to prove charges against you beyond reasonable doubt.
  • Many people are convicted on statements they’ve made to the police admitting charges. That’s why talking to a solicitor is important.
  • The prosecution prove charges by presenting corroborated evidence to the court. Corroboration is evidence from more than one source, for example, an eye-witness and a confession, two eye witnesses, or a confession and forensic evidence.
  • Your solicitor will normally be able to get copies of statements made by witnesses to the police. Unfortunately your solicitor is not allowed to give you copies or let you have these.
  • You need to keep in touch with your solicitor. Don’t assume anyone else is telling your solicitor what is happening in your case!
  • Some defences (such as alibi, self-defence or incrimination) need to be announced to the court and the prosecution at a preliminary hearing, otherwise you may not be allowed to run them.
  • If you have any defence witnesses or need an expert report, you need to tell your solicitor why you think it’s necessary so that your solicitor can talk it over with you and work out what to do for the best.
  • Appeals can be taken to the Appeal Court against conviction, conviction and sentence, or sentence alone.