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 abuse.
Held: The defendants had a right to a fair trial within a reasonable time, but that became effective only where it could be shown that no fair hearing remained possible, or there was some other compelling reason creating unfairness. The time period was to be calculated from the earliest time at which the defendant became aware that he might be charged. The mere fact that the prosecutor was the source of delay was not a sufficient reason. The consequences of a breach of a guaranteed right vary according to the situation. When faced with a delay, the court could ask whether the prejudice could be cured.
Lord Bingham of Cornhill said: ‘I cannot accept that it can ever be proper for a court, whose purpose is to uphold, vindicate and apply the law, to act in a manner which a statute (here, section 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998) declares to be unlawful’.


Lord Bingham of Cornhill, Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead, Lord Sdteyn, Lord Hoffmann, Lord Hope of Craighead, Lord Hobhouse of Woodborough, Lord Millett, Lord Rodger of Earslferry


[2003] UKHL 68, Gazette 29-Jan-2004, [2004] 2 AC 72, [2004] 1 All ER 1049, [2004] 15 BHRC 472, [2004] 1 Cr App R 25, [2004] 2 WLR 1, [2004] HRLR 16, [2004] UKHRR 193


HL, Bailii


European Convention on Human Rights 6(1)


England and Wales


CitedRegina v Hedworth CACD 20-Sep-1996
The court allowed amendment of the indictment to reflect the law as demonstrated in Preddy, and at a preparatory hearing application was made to quash the amended indictment on the basis that the charges were not supported by evidence in the . .
Appeal fromAttorney General’s Reference (No 2 of 2001) CACD 12-Jul-2001
When assessing whether the defendant’s right to a trial within a reasonable time had been infringed, the court should look as from the date at which he was charged, or served with a summons, and not from the date of the first interview. Although a . .
CitedDyer v Watson and Burrows PC 29-Jan-2002
Parties challenged the compliance of proceedings with the convention where there had been considerable delay.
Held: The reasonable detention provision (article 5(3)) and the reasonable time requirement (article 6(1)) conferred free-standing . .
CitedRegina v Shayler HL 21-Mar-2002
The defendant had been a member of the security services. On becoming employed, and upon leaving, he had agreed to keep secret those matters disclosed to him. He had broken those agreements and was being prosecuted. He sought a decision that the . .
CitedRegina v HM Advocate and The Advocate General for Scotland PC 28-Nov-2002
(The High Court of Justiciary) The prosecution had accepted that the matter had been the subject of unreasonable delay, but wished to continue. The defendant sought a plea in bar, on the basis that continuing would infringe his rights.
Held: . .
CitedStott (Procurator Fiscal, Dunfermline) and Another v Brown PC 5-Dec-2000
The system under which the registered keeper of a vehicle was obliged to identify herself as the driver, and such admission was to be used subsequently as evidence against her on a charge of driving with excess alcohol, was not a breach of her right . .
CitedRegina v Horseferry Road Magistrates’ Court, ex Parte Bennett (No 1) HL 24-Jun-1993
The defendant had been brought to the UK in a manner which was in breach of extradition law. He had, in effect, been kidnapped by the authorities.
Held: The High Court may look at how an accused person was brought within the jurisdiction when . .
CitedAttorney General’s Reference (No 1 of 1990) CACD 1990
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 . .
CitedEckle v Germany ECHR 15-Jul-1982
Two fraud prosecutions against the claimants had lasted for 15 and 20 years respectively.
Held: Article 6.1 applies to all stages of criminal proceedings, including sentencing and any appeal. The ‘reasonable time’ in criminal matters, . .

Cited by:

CitedR, Regina (on the Application of) v Durham Constabulary and Another HL 17-Mar-2005
The appellant, a boy aged 15, had been warned as to admitted indecent assaults on girls. He complained that it had not been explained to him that the result would be that his name would be placed on the sex offenders register. The Chief Constable . .
CitedHounsham and Others, Regina v CACD 26-May-2005
The defendants appealed convictions for having staged motor accidents to support false insurance claims. They said that the insurance companies had contributed to the costs of the investigation by the police.
Held: It might have been most . .
CitedDepartment 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, . .
CitedRegina v Abu Hamza CACD 28-Nov-2006
The defendant had faced trial on terrorist charges. He claimed that delay and the very substantial adverse publicity had made his fair trial impossible, and that it was not an offence for a foreign national to solicit murders to be carried out . .
CitedAli, Altaf v Crown Prosecution Service, West Midlands CACD 22-Mar-2007
The defendant was first arrested in 1997, but only re-arrested in 2004. He complained that the delay affected his right to a fair trial within a proper time. The judge accepted this but the trial proceeded, the judge denying a claim of abuse of . .
CitedSomerville v Scottish Ministers HL 24-Oct-2007
The claimants complained of their segregation while in prison. Several preliminary questions were to be decided: whether damages might be payable for breach of a Convention Right; wheher the act of a prison governor was the act of the executive; . .
CitedSpiers v Ruddy PC 12-Dec-2007
Limits to Powers in Devolution Cases
Mr Spiers had complained as to the competency of two temporary sheriffs called to hear case against him, saying that the temporary nature of their appointments did not allow them to constitute an independent tribunal. He now complained that the . .
CitedRutter, Regina (on the Application of) v The General Teaching Council for England Admn 1-Feb-2008
The applicant challenged a decision of disciplinary committee to go ahead with an allegation of misconduct after considerable delay by council and failure to abide by its own rules. After not receiving a notice of proceedings the applicant had . .
CitedEastaway v Secretary of State for Trade and Industry CA 10-May-2007
The applicant had been subject to company director disqualification proceedings. Eventually he gave an undertaking not to act as a company director, but then succeeded at the ECHR in a complaint of delay. He now sought release from his undertaking . .
CitedMurphy v Director of Public Prosecutions Admn 20-Jun-2006
The court rejected the defendant’s argument that the prosecutor should have put in evidence the results of the roadside breath test. Mitting J referred to the case of Badkin: ‘But nothing in the judgment of Glidewell LJ leads to the conclusion that . .
CitedBurns v Her Majesty’s Advocate (Scotland) PC 15-Dec-2008
The accused was arrested in February 2003, but then only brought to court in December 2004. He said that he had not had a fair trial within a reasonable time. The parties disputed when the time began to run from, from the date of arrest or his first . .
CitedRCPO v C CACD 5-Feb-2010
The prosecutor appealed against a stay of the prosecution as an abuse of process. It was alleged that the defendant solicitor had permitted a relation of his partner to launder the proceeds of a tax fraud. The principal defendant had been . .
CitedO’Neill v Her Majesty’s Advocate No 2 SC 13-Jun-2013
The appellants had been convicted of murder, it being said that they had disposed of her body at sea. They now said that the delay between being first questioned and being charged infringed their rights to a trial within a reasonable time, and . .
CitedGadd, 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 . .
CitedHer Majesty’s Advocate v CAM ScSf 21-Nov-2012
The appellant challenged his conviction saying that there had been too long a delay in his trial. . .
CitedRR v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions SC 13-Nov-2019
Housing benefit regulations had been found unlawful and were amended. The Court now considered what payments should have been made before the amendments came into effect.
Held: The appeal was allowed, and RR’s housing benefit entitlement is to . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Criminal Practice, Human Rights

Leading Case

Updated: 09 May 2022; Ref: scu.188773