There are five Magistrates' Courts in West Yorkshire, and two Crown Courts (situated in Leeds and Bradford). Around 96% of criminal cases are heard in the Magistrates' Courts. Each case will usually be heard by three magistrates, who are lay people from the local community. They are supported by qualified legal advisors.
Crown Courts are reserved for more serious cases and for those who require prison sentences of more than 12 months. They operate with a qualified judge; when dealing with trials a 12-person jury, chosen at random, will also be present.
Probation's role in the courts
The Probation Service works with offenders both before and after the sentence has been passed. Every court in West Yorkshire has its own team of resident Probation staff, who provide a range of services both for the offenders and for the magistrates or judges who sentence them.
These services include:
Preparing Reports for the Court
Many reports can be prepared on the day by court officers. These reports are for cases already known to the probation service, or if the case is straightforward (this includes 'Oral' and 'Fast Delivery' reports).
Others require a fuller assessment carried out by a probation officer who works in the community (known as 'Standard Delivery Reports').
The type of report will depend on the level of complexity of the case and the level of risk assessment that is required. Interviewing offenders is a vital part of report preparation.
Arranging Bail Placements
Some offenders are sent to custody to await sentence. Others are remanded on bail, allowing them to live in the community before sentence is passed. Probation staff in court can advise magistrates and judges on suitable arrangements for bail support, bail accommodation or both.
When arranging bail, risks are carefully managed and and there may be close liaison with prisons.
We prosecute offenders for failing to comply with their sentence, known as 'breaching'. This takes place in dedicated breach courts. We would also breach an offender for failing to tell us of a change of address.