In this bulletin, Edmund Walters discusses a recent case in which he successfully appeared in the Divisional Court on a point concerning the laying of informations and doing so before the six-month time limit expires.
Begum & Begum v Luton Borough Council  EWHC 1044 (Admin)
Edmund Walters, who is a specialist in regulatory and licensing law, successfully represented one of two appellants in an appeal by way of case stated which decided an important legal point about the six- month time limit for laying informations in the magistrates’ court under section 127(1) of the Magistrates’ Courts Act 1980 (“MCA 1980”) and the Criminal Procedure Rule 2015 (“Crim PR 2015”).
This case has practical implications for prosecution authorities and magistrates’ courts, when considering the method and the date for the laying of informations for summary-only offences in the magistrates’ court, under section 127(1) of the MCA 1980. In addition, the case illustrates how all defendants and their representatives should be careful to ascertain precisely how and when the prosecution have laid informations in magistrates’ courts and which provisions of the Crim PR 2015 are applicable to the method and date of service (or laying), particularly when this has been left by the prosecution close to the end of the limitation period.
In this case, the Appellants each faced 20 informations for alleged summary offences under the Housing Act 2004 (“HA 2004”).
An officer of the London Borough of Luton had delivered the informations and draft summonses by hand in an envelope to a security officer at Luton Magistrates’ Court on 02.12.16, which was within the six month time limit.
However, the informations and draft summonses were not placed before the administrative staff of HMCTS until 05.12.16 when they were received, opened and date stamped by HMCTS administrative staff, which was outside the six month time limit.
The appeal was by way of case stated from District Judge Dodds, sitting at Milton Keynes Magistrates Court on June 2017, who had ruled on a preliminary issue that the informations were laid in time, since the security guard had implied authority to accept the service (or laying) of the informations. The District Judge had set the case down for trial following his ruling.
The appeal by way of case stated was made before the trial.
The Appellants successfully applied to the High Court for an interim stay of the trial, pending the outcome of the appeal.
In the case stated, there were two related questions:-
The Divisional Court answered “No” to both these questions. In his judgment, Lord Justice Gross made the following points in summary, amongst others:
DISCLAIMER: This bulletin is no more than a summary of the topic, chosen selectively for the purposes of discussion only. It is not legal advice and should not be treated as such. It should not be relied upon in any respect. Recipients should always seek legal advice if proposing to take action following this commentary.