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What is an indictable offence?

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If you are due to appear at court for a criminal offence, the process that will be followed and the type of court you appear at will depend on whether the offence is considered ‘indictable only’, ‘summary only’, or ‘either way’.

Here, we take a closer look at indictable offences, what it means to face a trial for an indictable offence, and the types of crimes that are considered to be indictable.

While we hope this information is useful, please note that it should not be taken as legal advice. If you need legal support with indictable offences, then please get in touch and our team can advise you.

What is an indictable offence?

An indictable offence is one which can be heard in the Crown Court. In the UK, the Crown Court handles the most serious criminal offences.

Both ‘indictable only’ offences and ‘either way’ offences can be heard in the Crown Court, however ‘either way’ offences can also be heard in the Magistrates’ Court.

While ‘indictable only’ offences are heard in the Crown Court, the first court appearance will take place in the Magistrates’ Court. This is merely a formality, as the case will be sent straight to the Crown Court.

What does the Crown Court process involve?

After an indictable offence is sent to the Crown Court, the standard procedure will be for a plea hearing to take place from the outset. As a defendant, you will be expected to enter a plea to the charges against you, i.e. pleading guilty or not guilty.

During the initial Crown Court hearing, if you plead not guilty, the court will then take the case to trial. Dates for the Crown Court trial and any other relevant planning matters will then be decided, and directions are set for the service of evidence and any legal arguments.

During a trial for an indictable offence, you will be represented by a criminal defence solicitor/barrister. On the other side, an ‘advocate’ represents the prosecution. A jury of 12 individuals oversees the case.

Once both the prosecution and defence have delivered their arguments, the judge will summarise the evidence and inform the jury of the laws that will be applied to the charges. The jury then decides as to whether you are guilty or not guilty.

How do indictable offences differ from summary offences?

  • Summary only’ offences are less serious and are therefore heard only in the Magistrates’ Court.

Typically ‘either way’ offences range in seriousness, and therefore they can be heard in either the Magistrates’ Court or the Crown Court depending on the facts of the case.

How does a person get charged with an indictable offence?

Whilst the police have some powers to charge people with criminal offences, The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) will typically make charging decisions for indictable offences given their seriousness.

What offences are indictable?

Every criminal offence is strictly categorised as ‘summary only’, ‘either way’, or ‘indictable only’. If an offence is ‘either way’ or ‘indictable only’, it can be heard in the Crown Court, and is therefore an indictable offence. Common indictable offences include:

Is assault an indictable offence?

Common assault and battery are ‘summary only’ offences and thus can only be heard in the Magistrates’ Court. As such, these are not indictable offences.

However, where the assault is more serious and amounts to ABH or GBH, it will then constitute an OFFENCE TRIABLE INDICTMENT

Further, if an assault is racially or religiously aggravated, or if it is committed against an emergency worker, it will also be indictable, even if it only amounts to common assault or battery.

Credit for a guilty plea

In short, where a guilty plea is indicated at the first stage of proceedings, you could receive a reduction from 1/3 for an indictable offence.

You cannot enter a plea before the Magistrates’ Court for an indictable only offence. However, the Magistrates’ Court will ask you to indicate a plea at their first appearance. The indication must be unequivocal, meaning it must be clear and leave no doubt. Where a guilty plea is indicated at the Magistrates’ Court and made at the first Crown Court hearing, a reduction of one-third should be made.

If no indication of a guilty plea is made at the Magistrates’ Court, but a defendant later pleads guilty at the first Crown Court hearing, there will usually be a reduction in sentence of one-quarter.

More information regarding the potential outcomes for indicating a guilty plea can be found here.

Are you being accused of an indictable offence?

If you are facing an accusation of an indictable offence, or if you are due to appear at Court for such an offence, we understand how distressing a situation this is likely to be. The potential sentences for indictable only offences are extremely serious, so it is imperative that you have the strongest possible defence.

Our specialist criminal defence solicitors have over 45 years of experience in handling the most complex and serious cases. This means that we are in the strongest possible position to help you achieve the best possible outcome for your case, which may mean having charges dropped or having a sentence lowered if conviction is unavoidable.

We are highly skilled at handling and presenting the typical types of evidence that will be relied on in cases related to an indictable offence, such as forensic evidence, digital evidence and witness testimony. We can piece together a compelling case, identifying any flaws in the case against you and ensuring that any evidence that supports your position is clearly identified.

We have been accredited by the Law Society for Criminal Litigation. This, coupled with our extensive experience, means that we can demonstrate a strong track record of previous success, which has also allowed us to establish strong relationships with many of the country’s leading criminal defence barristers.

If you are facing a charge for an indictable offence, we are here to provide you with the support you need.

Related matters:

We also provide support and guidance on various indictable offences, including:

Our related cases

Fees and funding

When you work with our team, we will always be open and transparent about the likely fees that will be related to your case.

If you need to attend court for an indictable offence, Legal Aid may become available. Whether you can access legal aid will depend on whether the grant of public funding is justified.

Where you do not qualify for Legal Aid, the alternative will be to fund the case on a private basis.          

To find out more about the way we handle fees (both Legal Aid and private fees) for indictable offences, please use the links provided below:

Contact our criminal defence lawyers today

If you are due to attend the Crown Court, require any urgent specialist advice, or immediate representation for an indictable offence, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

You can contact our dedicated criminal defence lawyers in London, Birmingham, and Manchester by telephone on:

Or email: solicitors@jdspicer.co.uk

Alternatively, you can fill out our quick online enquiry form, and we will get back to you quickly.

24/7 legal representation for indictable offences

Please get in touch for a free consultation with one of our expert criminal defence solicitors, as well as immediate representation and advice for indictable offences.

We are available to represent clients all over England and Wales at any time, so please contact our Emergency Number at 07836 577 556.

Bespoke Private Fee Service

If you believe your case is likely to have serious consequences for you now, or in the future and you have the means to pay for this service

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Do we offer free consultations? 

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How can we help?

Common questions

We always work with the most experienced and best leading UK barristers, KCs (Kings Counsel). We cover all criminal cases 24/7 at the police station and court. Offices in London, Birmingham, and Manchester cover cases across England and Wales. We can offer Legal Aid and affordable Private fee agreements. We can see you the same day, including virtually. Our Senior Partners supervise all of our cases.

How quickly do you respond?

We respond quickly even during out of hours. We do not get our work by paying for online adverts but based on the fact that few criminal law firms can match our 45 years of experience. Most of our cases are still from word-of-mouth recommendations from satisfied clients. We are called daily by dissatisfied clients from firms with less experience than us. We respond very quickly to new enquiries. We know what clients seek and so we update clients rapidly.

Can you get cases dropped?

Yes, read about the recent cases we've helped our clients with here.

We always keep you updated and give straightforward advice. We will get cases dropped early where the case is weak or should not be prosecuted. We will be upfront with you about where you can benefit from a good result with an early guilty plea, such as a discount on your sentence. As we work on cases across all levels with clients from all walks of life, we are excellent at giving clear, spot-on advice. As an established firm, we can allocate a whole team to your case often at short notice to secure evidence to minimise the damage to you. 

Have you won any awards?


"JD Spicer Zeb demonstrated a clear commitment to client service through their work with vulnerable and diverse individuals in what can be severely traumatic circumstances".

Do you offer free consultations?

Where it is possible, we aim to provide an initial consultation to you. If we can speak to you, we can if required inform you about  –

  • Whether we can take the case on and our relevant experience.
  • Public and private funding benefits.
  • Assistance in applying for legal aid where we are likely to accept instructions.
  • An outline of options in police interview only. We will not advise you on which option to adopt.
  • Providing our free written guide explaining the police station process.
  • The gravity of routine and day-to-day offences you face.
  • Consequences of not attending the court or police station.
  • Consequences of interfering with any witnesses.
  • Retaining any evidence in support of your case.
  • If possible an outline of the elements of the offence that the police or CPS must prove.
  • This consultation will normally be by telephone or email and will only be for as long as we deem necessary to establish if we can act for you. If we cannot usefully give you any advice in this manner then we will not continue with the consultation. We will not discuss the case in depth for you to be able to decide on your plea or any significant aspect of the case, as this cannot be undertaken informally.
  • Referring you, if possible, to other firms for matters out of our specialism or if we cannot help.

Consultations do not apply to the following cases –

  • If we do not intend to take the case on.
  • Road Traffic cases, drink driving, drug driving, driving bans, speeding, no insurance, mobile phone use, points etc.
  • In all cases where we do not have the capacity to take your case or the availability of suitably qualified staff to provide an initial free consultation. This is applicable in all cases but especially where a more senior lawyer is required because of your personal needs or the complexity of the case.
  • Harassment/stalking/ coercive behaviour/malicious communications or road traffic cases and most sensitive cases. These cases are often too complicated to assess in short consultations.
  • The locations concerned may be too distant to represent you adequately or it may not be cost-effective for you or us.
  • The case is too complicated to assess or raises various charges or facts, complexity, or history to be considered informally or in a short consultation.
  • In most Legal aid transfers where legal aid is granted to another firm except in very grave cases, we may assess the case and merits for a transfer.
  • If your relationship has broken down with your existing solicitor or several solicitors.
  • If you have been released under investigation and have already had a police station attendance. 
  • If you hold legal aid with another firm and seek a second opinion.
  • If you are calling on behalf of the client as a friend or family member unless you have full authority and full facts.
  • To businesses.
  • Advising whether you were given good advice by your other solicitor.
  • Whether to decide to plead guilty or not guilty.
  • Whether you have an arguable defence in law or factually complicated defences.
  • Any advice you have had after your first court appearance.
  • Any advice on appeal on conviction or sentence.
  • If we feel we are unable to communicate with you.
  • If we are likely to be conflicted or breach our professional rules.