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Ryder Cup star Thorbjorn Olesen has been charged over alleged criminal behaviour on a transatlantic flight last week, and is set to appear before magistrates in London later this month

The Dane has been charged by the Metropolitan Police with three offences relating to alleged incidents on a British Airways flight from Nashville to London following the WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational: sexual assault, being drunk on an aircraft, and common assault.

He is due to appear at Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday, 21 August – but what happens next?

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We spoke to a top London-based law firm (who asked not to be named) to better establish the likely next steps in the process.

What will happen at the hearing on August 21?

This will be a largely procedural hearing during which the charges against Olesen will be read. He will have the opportunity to respond in one of three ways: enter a plea of ‘guilty’; enter a plea of ‘not guilty’; or enter no plea at all.

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If he pleads guilty…

It is possible that Olesen could be sentenced the same day but it is more likely it would be put off for pre-sentence reports to be compiled and for a recommendation made on what sentence should be applied. Sentences for guilty pleas at the earliest possible opportunity are usually more lenient (up to a third off a sentence imposed following a trial).


If he pleads not guilty or enters no plea…

The most likely outcome here is that the prosecution and defence will be advised of when they must present their evidence. A decision will also be made on where the case will be heard: the Magistrates Court or the Crown Court.


What’s the difference?

The Magistrates Court is not as formal as the Crown Court. It typically comprises three magistrates – or Justices of the Peace – although, in some instances, the cases might only be heard by a single magistrate. Most criminal cases are heard in the Magistrates Court, with three main exceptions: cases relating to serious crime; cases where the accused has requested his/her case be tried by a jury; cases that the Magistrates Court sends to the Crown Court if the magistrates feel that a higher sentence should be imposed than they have the power to set. With their lower sentencing powers, the Magistrates Court can impose a maximum sentence of up to six months in prison.

Cases that go to the Crown Court are tried by jury and presided over by a more experienced judge who has wider sentencing powers, ranging from community sentences (i.e. unpaid work in your local community) to prison sentences, including life sentences.

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What is the timescale for cases to be heard?

The first Crown Court hearing – called the Preliminary Hearing – is usually heard around four weeks after the first appearance before magistrates. There, the judge has to determine if there is enough evidence to force the defendant to stand trial. In the event that there is, the case will be adjourned pending trial.

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