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What to do if you are too ill to attend court

Many people face very lengthy court proceedings, and it is therefore hardly unusual that on occasion a person may not be well enough to attend court.

Despite this fact, courts are sceptical of alleged illness and unless the rules are followed in close detail, a non-attendee faces the serious prospect of being arrested by the police and taken to court in custody. This may involve a stay in police cells over the weekend, so it is essential that you understand what you need to do.


The first step is to inform your solicitor as soon as you are able.

Our firm has a 24-hour contact number 0161 477 1121 so that you can contact us before office opening (say around 8 am) to inform us as to what is happening.

In almost all cases, if you do not need to see a Doctor, the court is unlikely to accept your illness as an excuse not to attend court.

It will, of course, depend on the exact circumstances, so again it is essential to speak to us and obtain advice as to what is the best course of action.


A Doctor will be able to issue you with a sick note.

This is not, however, necessarily the end of the matter, and the opinion of a Doctor does not bind a court.

Doctors have been issued with guidance concerning medical notes for court non-attendance, but a busy practitioner may very well miss the detail.

The Criminal Practice Direction sets out the following minimum requirements:

(a) The date on which the medical practitioner examined you;
(b) The exact nature of your ailments;
(c) If it is not self-evident, why the ailment prevents you attending court;
(d) An indication as to when you are likely to be able to attend court, or a date when the current certificate expires.

Circumstances where the court may find a medical certificate unsatisfactory include:

(a) Where the certificate indicates that the defendant is unfit to attend work (rather than to attend court);
(b) Where the nature of the defendant’s ailment (e.g. a broken arm) does not appear to be capable of preventing his attendance at court;
(c) Where the defendant is certified as suffering from stress/anxiety/depression and there is no indication of the defendant recovering within a realistic timescale.

How we can assist

If you need specialist advice, or are too ill to attend court then please make sure you get in touch with us on 0161 477 1121 or email us and one of our team will be able to assist you.

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