A police officer attended an incident where two people were arrested. Complaints about his conduct were made of which he was given notice. A formal investigation was instituted and adjourned pending the outcome of criminal proceedings against those arrested. They were acquitted in January 1988. The investigation of the complaints was then resumed. In March 1989 (approaching two years after the incident), the police officer was served with summonses alleging two offences of assault occasioning actual bodily harm. He consulted a solicitor. In the Crown Court, over two years after the incident, the police officers submitted that in view of the delay the proceedings constituted an abuse of the process of the court. There had been delay by the prosecution in bringing a police officer to trial, so that the trial was not due to start till 27 months after the alleged offence.
Held: The trial judge held that, although the delay was not unjustified, on the balance of probabilities it might be prejudicial to the police officer and he ordered the proceedings to be stayed.
The traditional common law approach to abuse of process cases is that the courts may in their discretion, refuse the relief of a stay where to proceed would not amount to an abuse of process, or the unfairness could be cured. ‘The trial process itself is equipped to deal with the bulk of complaints which have founded applications for a stay.’ The power to order a stay is ‘a power to be exercised only in exceptional cases’.
Lord Lane CJ said: ‘In answer to the second question posed by the Attorney-General, no stay should be imposed unless the defendant shows on the balance of probabilities that owing to the delay he will suffer serious prejudice to the extent that no fair trial can be held: in other words, that the continuance of the prosecution amounts to a misuse of the process of the court. In assessing whether there is likely to be prejudice and if so whether it can properly be described as serious, the following matters should be borne in mind: first, the power of the judge at common law and under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 to regulate the admissibility of evidence; secondly, the trial process itself, which should ensure that all relevant factual issues arising from delay will be placed before the jury as part of the evidence for their consideration, together with the powers of the judge to give appropriate directions to the jury before they consider their verdict.
It follows from what we have said that in our judgment the decision of the judge to stay the proceedings in the instant case was wrong. The delay, such as it was, was not unjustifiable; the chances of prejudice were remote; the degree of potential prejudice was small; the powers of the judge and the trial process itself would have provided ample protection for the respondent; there was no danger of the trial being unfair; in any event the case was in no sense exceptional so as to justify the ruling.
This judgment will, we hope, result in a significant reduction in the number of applications to stay proceedings on the ground of delay. At the risk of repetition, we emphasise the exceptional nature of the jurisdiction. In the event of an unsuccessful application to the Crown Court on such grounds, the appropriate procedure will be for the trial to proceed in accordance with the ruling of the trial judge and, if necessary, the point should be argued as part of any appeal to the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division).’
Lord Lane CJ
 QB 630, (1992) 95 Cr App R 296
England and Wales
Cited – Director of Public Prosecutions v Humphrys HL 1977
Humphrys was charged with driving while disqualified. The issue was the correctness of the identification by a police constable. In evidence, Humphrys denied that he was the driver, or indeed that he had driven any car during the year in question. . .
Cited – Regina v Sang HL 25-Jul-1979
The defendant appealed against an unsuccessful application to exclude evidence where it was claimed there had been incitement by an agent provocateur.
Held: The appeal failed. There is no defence of entrapment in English law. All evidence . .
Cited – Regina v Derby Crown Court, ex parte Brooks QBD 1985
The court set out the characteristics of abuse of process in criminal matters. It may be an abuse of process if: ‘the prosecution have manipulated or misused the process of the court so as to deprive the defendant of a protection provided by the law . .
Cited – Culpepper v The State PC 20-Dec-2000
PC (Trinidad and Tobago) The defendant appealed against his conviction for murder. An elderly lady had been raped and murdered. Other evidence had been destroyed in a fire at the police station, and the . .
Cited – Regina v Parker CACD 30-Jan-2003
The defendant appealed a conviction for causing criminal damage by fire with risk to life. The evidence was that no explanation existed other than that the fire had been started deliberately. She said she had been trying to light a cigarette in bed. . .
Cited – Aaron v The Law Society (the Office of the Supervision of Solicitors) QBD 13-Oct-2003
The appellant challenged an order suspending him from practice as a solicitor for two years. He had previous findings of professional misconduct in failing to pay counsels’ fees. In the course of later disciplinary proceedings he was found to have . .
Cited – Attorney-General’s Reference (No 2 of 2001) HL 11-Dec-2003
The house was asked whether it might be correct to stay criminal proceedings as an abuse where for delay. The defendants were prisoners in a prison riot in 1998. The case only came on for trial in 2001, when they submitted that the delay was an . .
Cited – Director of Public Prosecutions and others v Tokai and others PC 12-Jun-1996
(Trinidad and Tobago) The appellant had been charged in 1981 with offences alleged to have been committed shortly before. The proceedings continued until his appeal for one was dismissed in 1988. The wounding charges were proceeded with only in . .
Cited – Regina v Beedie CACD 11-Mar-1997
Stay for Extended Autrefois Convict
The plea of autrefois convict applies only if the legal substance of the charges is same but the judge has a discretion. The plea is not limited to Connelly v DPP definitions, but is still narrow.
A 19-year-old girl died of carbon monoxide . .
Cited – Phipps, Regina v CACD 14-Jan-2005
The appellant had been convicted of driving with excess alcohol. After complaints by the injured victim’s family he was further prosecuted for dangerous driving. He now appealed his conviction, having pleaded guilty when the judge failed to find an . .
Cited – Department for Work and Pensions v Courts Admn 3-May-2006
The appellant challenged stays of proceedings by the respondent magistrates court for abuse of process infringing the defendants’ human right to a fair trial. The magistrates had fund that being faced with dismissal of a summary case through delay, . .
re-stated. – S, Regina v CACD 6-Mar-2006
The court restated the principles applying a stay for abuse of process occasioned by delay. Rose VP LJ said: , the correct approach for a judge to whom an application for a stay for abuse of process on the ground of delay is made, is to bear in mind . .
Cited – Gadd, Regina v QBD 10-Oct-2014
The prosecutor sought leave to bring a voluntary bill of indictment, to pursue historic sex abuse allegations against the defendant. The defendant objected to counts founded on facts which were the substance of a charge of indecent assault . .
Cited – J, Regina v CACD 2-Jul-2001
Orse Attorney General’s Reference No 2 of 2001
The AG sought to appeal from the decision that an indictment against the seven defendants should be stayed on the ground that there had been a breach of Article 6(1). They were accused of . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Updated: 20 November 2021; Ref: scu.179818