The trial is held before a judge and a jury of 12 people selected from a pool of potential jurors.

The purpose of the trial is for the prosecution and defence to present all relevant and admissible evidence to the jury, who will decide whether or not the accused person is guilty. Sometimes more than one accused are on trial together.

The offences are set out in a document called an indictment and the accused will be asked whether they plead guilty or not guilty to the offence.

Before the trial there may be discussions between the barristers and the judge about legal issues which may affect the way the trial is run. These discussions may go on for some time.

The proceedings begin with preliminary remarks from the judge telling the court what the trial is about.


Both parties will open their case and then call witnesses to give their evidence. This is called giving evidence-in-chief.

The barristers can ask questions of any witness called by the other party to ‘test’ the evidence being given. This is called cross-examination.

The party that has called the witness can ask further questions of them to clarify matters arising from cross-examination. This is called re-examination.

After all the witnesses have given their evidence, the barristers give their closing address to the jury.

The judge will then summarise the evidence and the arguments from both sides and will help explain legal issues to the jury. This is called the judge’s charge.

The verdict

The jury's role is to decide whether the accused is guilty or not guilty of the offence on the evidence presented to them. The jury must determine whether the prosecution has proven that the accused committed the crime to the accepted standard of proof – beyond reasonable doubt.

The jury will go to another room to consider their verdict. When they have all reached the same decision, the jury will come into the courtroom and the jury foreperson will tell the court whether they find the accused person guilty or not guilty.

Sometimes the jury cannot agree on a verdict and they will be sent home and the trial will be heard again before a new jury at a later date.

If the jury finds the accused not guilty of the crime then they are free to go. This is called an acquittal. The prosecution cannot appeal to a higher court against an acquittal.

If the jury finds the accused guilty, the judge will then decide what the sentence will be. The judge will hand down the sentence at a later time.