Guidance: Criminal Procedure Rules and Practice Directions 2020

Criminal Procedure Rule Committee

September 1
09:44 2022

What are the Criminal Procedure Rules?

The Criminal Procedure Rules are rules about criminal court procedure in magistrates courts, the Crown Court, the Court of Appeal and, in extradition appeal cases, the High Court. Each Part of the Criminal Procedure Rules contains rules about parts of that procedure. On this page there are summaries of what each Part is about and links to the rules in each Part. In those rules there are notes that give more detail, including references to the Acts of Parliament and other legislation that applies.

The Criminal Procedure Rules are published at There you can read and download the rules in HTML and pdf.

On this page, you can:

  • read the rules online and download them in MS Word.

  • read and download the Criminal Practice Directions made by the Lord Chief Justice.

On the Criminal Procedure Rules forms page you can read and download the forms to use with the rules.

Criminal court procedure

When someone is accused of a crime, they may be sent a notice (called a summons or a requisition) that tells them to go to court on the date in the notice, or tells them to fill in a form with the notice and send that form to the court. Sometimes the person is arrested, questioned, formally accused of the crime (charged) and then taken to court, or given a date they must go to court.

In the Criminal Procedure Rules anyone accused of a crime is called a defendant. The authority responsible for prosecuting the case in court is called the prosecutor. In most cases that will be the Crown Prosecution Service.

Almost all criminal cases start in a magistrates court. At court, some cases will be dealt with completely at the first hearing, for example if the defendant pleads guilty to the crime. Serious cases may be sent for trial in the Crown Court. Some cases may be sent for sentence in the Crown Court even if the defendant is convicted of the crime in a magistrates court.

In magistrates courts usually there will be between one and three magistrates. They may be helped by a legal adviser.

In the Crown Court there will be one judge. Usually there will be a jury for a trial.

At the first court hearing many cases will be postponed (adjourned) to another date. If the defendant pleads not guilty to the crime the court will need to arrange a trial to receive evidence about what happened. At the first hearing the court will ask for information about the case, set a trial date and make court orders (directions) about getting the case ready for trial.

At the trial, unless the defendant pleads guilty the court will hear evidence from prosecution witnesses and it may receive written evidence. The prosecution witnesses can be questioned by the defendant or by the defendants lawyer. After the court has heard, or read, the prosecution evidence the defendant can give evidence and can ask witnesses to give evidence for the defence. It is up to the prosecution to prove that the defendant is guilty, not up to the defendant to prove the opposite.

After the court has heard, or read, all the evidence the magistrates, in a magistrates court, or the jury, in the Crown Court, decide whether the prosecution has proved that the defendant is guilty. If it has, the magistrates, in a magistrates court, or the judge, in the Crown Court, pass sentence on the defendant. A sentence can be an order to spend time in prison, or to pay money (a fine), or to carry out unpaid work, or to do, or not do, other things.

Rules and Practice Directions contents

General matters (including case management)

Part 1 The overriding objective (MS Word Document, 86.5 KB)

This Part states the objective for all the other rules. It places duties on the court and on everyone involved in a case.

Part 2 Understanding and applying the rules and powers of authorised court officers (MS Word Document, 148 KB)

This Part explains when the Criminal Procedure Rules apply. It explains what some words used in the Rules mean. It lists some judges work that court staff may be allowed to carry out.

Part 3 Case management (MS Word Document, 266 KB)

This Part contains rules about the powers that courts use to make sure trials go ahead on time and are fair. It includes rules about pre-trial court hearings, when defendants are asked whether they are going to plead guilty or not guilty and when courts give directions to make sure that everyone prepares properly.

Part 4 Service of documents (MS Word Document, 117 KB)

This Part contains rules about the ways in which courts and the people involved in a case can send information and documents to each other.

Part 5 Forms and court records (MS Word Document, 149 KB)

This Part contains rules about using forms to give information to the court. It lists the records that court staff must keep. It explains how to apply for information kept in court records.

Part 6 Reporting, etc. restrictions (MS Word Document, 125 KB)

Criminal cases usually take place in public. Usually anyone can attend and what happens can be reported. Sometimes there are restrictions and this Part lists them. It contains rules about applying for a restriction, or for a restriction to be removed.

Criminal Practice Directions I: General matters (PDF, 556 KB, 68 pages)

Preliminary proceedings

Part 7 Starting a prosecution in a magistrates' court (MS Word Document, 105 KB)

This Part contains rules about how the prosecutor must start a case and how the prosecutor must explain what the defendant is accused of doing.

Part 8 Initial details of the prosecution case (MS Word Document, 85.5 KB)

This Part lists the information that a prosecutor must give a defendant at the beginning of a case.

Part 9 Allocation and sending for trial (MS Word Document, 191 KB)

Criminal offences are divided into three types. The most serious have to be sent by the magistrates court to the Crown Court for trial and sentence. Those are described as triable only on indictment. The least serious offences are tried and sentenced in the magistrates court. Those are described as summary offences. With the third type of offence the magistrates court has to decide whether to send the case to the Crown Court or to keep it in the magistrates court. Those offences are described as triable either way. In most cases of that third typ

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