The court service is warning that “wilful failure to attend court is a serious matter and can be a criminal offence”.
It says: “CJS (Criminal Justice Service) agencies have worked together closely in recent years to ensure defendants get to court and we expect that to continue.
“If a defendant has genuine difficulty getting to a magistrates’ court in time for their case and informs the court, the court will seek to be flexible about the timing of that case wherever possible.
“If a defendant fails to appear at court, guidance is in place that obliges the court to consider proceeding in their absence.
“If it chooses not to proceed in the defendant’s absence it will usually issue a failure to appear warrant.”
The statement doesn’t reveal that in cases of “wilful failures to attend”, magistrates normally issue a warrant without bail – which means defendants are arrested by the police and spend a night in the cells before being brought in custody before the court. It’s also normal for a further charge to be laid, that of failing to answer bail.