Summary Offences: What Is A Summary Offence?

by | Jul 7 2021 | Criminal Defence

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Summary Offence | Read Time 2-4 Minutes

What is a summary only offence?

A summary offence is categorised as one of the least serious offences that a defendant can receive. These types of offences can only be tried in the Magistrates’ Court and cannot be tried by juries. Furthermore, punishment’s for these types of offences are usually not severe, and can include fines and suspended prison sentences.

The summary offence process

Typically, a summary offence follows one of two routes when being processed through the UK’s legal system. These two routes are dependent on whether the defendant pleads guilty or not guilty. 


If the defendant decides to plead not guilty, the case will be adjourned to a trial date. At the trial, the Prosecutor will call all of the witnesses and victim’s. 

Firstly, each witness will be questioned by the defendants lawyers, and questions will be opened to the Bench (three magistrates who determine if a defendant is guilty). Secondly, the defendant and their defence lawyers will then provide evidence and will also be questioned by the Prosecutor. Finally, once the trial ends, both parties will provide a closing speech, and the Bench will determine whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty.

If the Court decides that the defendant is not guilty, they will be released from the dock unconditionally. However, it is found that the defendant is guilty, the Court will proceed to sentence the defendant. 


If a defendant pleads guilty, the Prosecutor will outline the facts of the case to the Court. After, the defendant’s lawyer will explain any circumstances which may mitigate their sentence. After, the Court will then decide to sentence the defendant or wait for a Pre-Sentence report. 

The pre-sentence report is an impartial report that provides the sentencing court with an understanding of why the defendant committed a crime. Furthermore, it will explain the defendants background, family, and work circumstances. Finally, the Court uses this information to make an informed decision on the most appropriate sentence. 

The Magistrates Court has the power to imprison criminals with a maximum custodial sentence of 6 months. 

We can connect you to a expert criminal defence lawyer who can provide you representation in your summary offence matter. Just give us a quick call on 020 3795 9020.

What are examples of summary only offences? 

Around 90% of all criminal cases in the UK are classed as summary offences. Summary offences are considered low severity criminal offences and are often non-imprisonable. Most commonly, summary offences include: 

Common assault 

Common assault is defined as an individual who inflicts violence on another person. To be charged with this offence, a person only has to make the person believe they are about to be attacked. Furthermore, offensive behaviour such as spitting can substitute for common assault. For more information on violent crimes, please click here

Criminal damage

Criminal damage is when an individual causes damage to private or public property intentionally or by being reckless. Examples of this type of offence may include breaking small windows, widespread graffiti or damage caused as part of a spree. Furthermore, factors such as revenge or damage to emergency equipment will be imposed with harsher punishments by the magistrates’ court.

Motoring offences

Driving offences are one the most common summary offences. These types of offences encompass a wide variety of crimes, including speeding, failing to comply with traffic signs, careless driving, dangerous driving, and leaving a vehicle somewhere dangerous. Furthermore, if the defendant is found guilty of this offence, they will often be imposed with a fine. 

In some cases, if a summary offence is decided by the magistrates’ to be more serious than initially thought, it may be tried as either way offence. These types of offences can be heard at both the magistrates’ or crown court. Furthermore, the defendant will be given the option to select which court to have the matter heard in. Importantly, for more information on triable either way offences, please see our Triable Either Way Offences blog.

What is the maximum sentence for a summary offence? 

The Magistrate’s Court can give the following punishments for summary offences: 

  • A fine
  • Custodial sentence up to 6 months in prison (or 12 months if the defendant has been tried on multiple offences)
  • A community order sentence (i.e. community service)
  • A ban (i.e. driving disqualification)

In some cases, if the magistrates’ court decides that the defendant should be charged with a longer custodial sentence, it will be assigned as an indictable offence. These offences can only be heard in the Crown Court and will carry harsher sentences. Furthermore, the case will be heard by a jury who will decide if the defendant is guilty, opposed to a judge.

LGBT Lawyers can connect you to a criminal defence lawyer today. Just give us a quick call on 020 3795 9020. Furthermore, if you would prefer to message us, you can email LGBT lawyers at

How can a criminal defence lawyer help you? 

It can be highly stressful facing a summary offence charge as the law surrounding this area is very complex. A lawyer will give you the best chance of success with your case. Therefore, it is vital you seek the help of a legal professional.

A criminal defence lawyer will ensure that you have a strong case by ensuring evidence is collected lawfully. Furthermore, they can provide excellent legal representation to ensure the case is presented effectively and efficient manner. 

Are you facing an offence which is triable either-way?

If you are facing a summary offence, you’ll need a criminal defence lawyer on your side. 

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