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Newton hearing in UK

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The trial is the most important stage in the legal proceedings when guilt must be proven or dismissed, depending on the side. Even if a case can seem clear and easy to resolve, there are situations in which the evidence provide is confusing the judge and gives room for argument between the defence and the prosecution. For situations like this, the UK Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) uses a precedent created in 1983 in the case of an individual called Newton who admitted he had committed a burglary, but with prior consent from his wife. This is how the Newton hearing appeared and the modern English law now uses it where the case allows it.

What exactly is the Newton hearing?

The Newton hearing can be defined as a short closed-door trial in which the defence and the prosecution debate the contradiction in the evidence supporting each party’s case. It is the judge who conducts the Newton hearing in absence of the jury. It will also fall upon the judge to decide which evidence, such as testimonies or submissions, is relevant for the case to be settled.

The Newton hearing procedure

A Newton hearing will begin only after the defendant pleaded guilty, however the evidence points different. There are several facts which must be considered before the Newton hearing.

The procedure itself will begin at the initiative of the defence and will place the burden of proving their case on the prosecution. However, in the UK the procedure is not used by the defence unless considerable benefits will favor the defendant.

If the hearing is admitted by the court, the prosecution will be the first party submitting its evidence, followed by the defence.

Possibilities to end a Newton hearing

The cases kept into the statistics of the CPS indicate that there are three situations in which a Newton hearing can end. The first one, even if it seems contrary to what these hearing stands for, implies for the jury to decide. This is possible if, under Section 18 or Section 20 in the 1861 Offences against the Person Act, the jury will decide that the prosecution proved the intent of the defendant. However, these cases are rare.

The second situation and the most common one is that the magistrate will judge the case by himself or herself and will decide in favor of one of the parties.

The third situation implies for the judge to decide not to hear any evidence, but to seek counsel and reach a conclusion this way.

Are Newton hearings worth the bother?

Many say that Newton hearings are expensive from a temporal but also from a monetary point of view. This type of hearing will imply calling witnesses and hearing other evidence all over again and even if it is supposed to be swift, it often is not.

Then, there is also the loss of credit issue which implies the defendant to lose the right to a less severe sentence. This is one of the reasons the defence takes time to consider the pros and cons of asking for a Newton hearing.

No matter the type of accusations and the possible outcomes of a trial, Newton hearings weigh a lot and finding a balance is important before request them.