I have missed the court date on my summons, what now?
What is a court summons?
A court summons is a written document requiring you to attend court at a specific date and time. The document will inform the recipient of the pending claim or charges against them. In civil litigation, the court summons is now known as the ‘claim form’ under the Civil Procedure Rules 1998, and the Particulars of Claim, which provides details of the claim against the defendant, will accompany it.
If you are not the defendant in the case, you may have been issued with a witness summons or ‘subpoena’, which is a legal order issued by the court requiring you to attend court to give evidence.
What action should you take if you have missed the court date on your summons?
Blatant disregard for a court summons will be looked on unfavourably by the court. If you are the defendant in a criminal case and have missed the court date on your summons, i.e. failed to attend for trial, you should hand yourself in to the authorities immediately.
If, for example in a civil case, you have missed your court date due to extenuating circumstances and default judgment has been entered against you, you may be able to appeal the judgment made at the original court hearing. The court will only allow an appeal at its discretion, depending on whether or not they consider your extenuating circumstances to be valid. Therefore, it is important to submit any supporting evidence that you may have with your appeal, in order to show that your failure to attend court on the relevant date was unavoidable.
If you have missed the court date on a witness summons, you should send a written apology to the court explaining why you failed to attend the court at the designated date and time.
What are the legal implications of missing the court date on your summons?
Even if you are in the process of appealing a judgment made against you in your absence, you may still face legal repercussions as a result of missing the court date on your summons. If the court summons was in relation to a minor offence, such as a speeding offence or traffic ticket, the court may impose a heavier fine and suspend your licence until you pay it.
If your court summons was in relation to a crime of a serious nature and you failed to attend court on the required date, the court may issue a warrant for your arrest. Once you have either surrendered yourself or have been arrested, you may be taken into custody and held there until your next court date and possibly until the case goes to trial (if your bail is withdrawn). If you are in the process of an appeal, you may be able to pay a fee in order to avoid being kept in prison whilst you are awaiting the outcome of your appeal.
It is a criminal offence to disobey or disregard a witness summons without good reason and this will be treated as ‘contempt of court’. This can result in an arrest warrant being issued and possible imprisonment until the next hearing. However, in these circumstances, bail will usually be granted, provided a location is established where the person can be contacted in future.