Whilst there are some time limits imposed after which court actions cannot be taken in certain types of cases, the UK, contrary to most countries in the world, has no statute of limitations for any criminal offence which falls for trial above the Magistrate’s Courts.
The recent decision to prosecute a soldier who was serving in Northern Ireland during the events of ‘Bloody Sunday’ has drawn much attention from the press as has current police procedure whereby those arrested no longer tend to be bailed for a specific period but are released pending investigation, however long that process takes.
Sukhdip Randhawa of Kangs Solicitors outlines the general position.
Criminal Offences | Kangs Criminal Law Advisory Team
Offences are identified as:
- ‘Summary Only Offences’ – these can only be tried in a Magistrates’ Court.
- ‘Either Way Offences’ – which may be tried in either the Magistrates’ Court or a Crown Court.
- ‘Indictable Only Offences’ – these can only be tried in a Crown Court.
‘Summary Only Offences’
- Section 127 (1)of the Magistrates’ Courts Act 1980 states:
‘Except as otherwise expressly provided by any enactment and subject to subsection (2) below, a magistrates’ court shall not try an information or hear a complaint unless the information was laid, or the complaint made, within 6 months from the time when the offence was committed, or the matter of complaint arose.’
Offences ‘otherwise expressly provided by any enactment‘ include those relating to:
- Welfare Benefit Offences
- Regulatory Crime
- Animal Cruelty
- Immigration Cases
where proceedings can be commenced much later, sometimes up to three years.
‘Either Way And Indictable Only Offences’
As there are no statutory time limits, it is not unusual for offences to be prosecuted many years after the alleged criminal offence has occurred.
In a situation where a defendant may be placed at a disadvantage as a result of, for example, difficulty in tracing alibis and potential witnesses there exist procedural applications that may be made to the court where to continue would amount to an abuse of process and not in the interests of justice.
How Can We Help? | Kangs National Criminal Defence Solicitors
It is not unusual to encounter prosecutions being commenced in breach of the rules governing time limits and the team at Kangs Solicitors will always seek withdrawal of proceedings before a Magistrates’ Court whenever they are out of time.
With regard to motoring offences, there exists a common misconception that all motoring prosecutions must be commenced within six months of the alleged offence. This is incorrect as the prosecution of certain driving offences, listed in Schedule 1 of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988, can be started within six months of sufficient evidence to warrant the proceedings coming to the knowledge of the Prosecutor.
It is essential that anybody accused of a criminal offence at any level should seek expert legal advice from the outset. The team at Kangs Solicitors defends clients at Magistrates’ Courts and Crown Courts throughout the country on a daily basis.
Who Can I Contact For Help | Kangs Criminal Law Defence Experts
Our team of Solicitors has a proven track record of assisting individuals to achieve the best available results in the defence of criminal proceedings.
Our team can be contacted through any of the below: