Sukhdip Randhawa of Kangs Solicitors outlines the law in relation to the various ways in which proceedings in the Magistrates’ Courts may be issued.
Magistrates’ Court Act 1980.
Section 1 states:
‘on an information being laid before a Justice of the Peace that a person has, or is suspected of having committed an offence the Justices may issue:
- a summons directed to that person requiring him to appear before a Magistrates’ Court to answer the information; or
- a warrant to arrest that person and bring him before the Magistrates’ Court’.
Proceedings had to be commenced within six months of the commission date of the offence and it was settled law that the Information had to be laid in the Magistrates’ Courts. Once that information was before the Magistrates’ Court within the six month time period the Justices’ clerk could authorise the issuing of the summons on the Information after the six month period, and this would not affect the validity of the summons.
Criminal Justice Act 2003.
- Section 29 created a new method of instituting proceedings for certain Prosecutors, including the Police, and a relevant Prosecutor may institute criminal proceedings against a person by issuing a written charge which charges a person with an offence.
- A Prosecutor will issue a written charge, together with either a requisition or a Single Justice Procedure Notice. The former requires the person on whom it is served to appear before the Courts, and the latter is often dealt with by way of written submissions.
Criminal Procedure Rule 2015.
Part 7.2 (5) states:
‘where an offence can be tried only in a Magistrates’ Court, then unless other legislation otherwise provides
(a) a Prosecutor must serve an information on the Court officer or present it to the Court; or
(b) an authorised Prosecutor must issue a written charge, not more than six months after the alleged offence.
- The recent case of James William Brown v DPP had to analyse the meaning of issuing a written charge.
- The Appellant argued that proceedings could not have been issued unless, and until the relevant document (the written charge) was in the public domain or at least had left the relevant Prosecutors office.
- The Respondent argued that it was sufficient to show that a written charge had been produced by the Prosecutor in a form that is ready to be served.
- The case involved an offence occurring on the 19th November 2017. The Single Justice Procedure Notice and written charge had a posting date of the 23rd May 2018, and was therefore outside of the six month time frame. The charge however, had been produced with the correct wording and with the relevant URN by the Prosecutor on the 21st April 2018 and therefore within six months.
- The Judgement provided by the High Court concluded that the Justices were right to deem that the written charge and Single Justice Procedure had been issued upon the Defendant by the Prosecutor on the 21st April 2018, and hence within the six month time frame.
- The Court of Appeal stated that if there is an inordinate, unwarranted or unjustified but significant delay, this cannot go without remedy and the remedy would be an abuse of process.
How Can We Help? | Kangs Magistrates’ Courts Defence Solicitors
If you are issued with a written charge containing either a requisition or a Single Justice Procedure notice it is imperative that expert legal advice is sought immediately to ensure that the charges are valid and not time barred.
If you require advice or assistance, please do not hesitate to get in touch with our team through one of the following: