Crown Prosecuting Service v F: CACD 21 Jul 2011

The Crown appealed against dismissal of historic sexual abuse charges for delay by the complainant.
Held: The justification for delay is relevant only to the extent that it bears upon the question whether a fair trial is no longer possible by reason of prejudice to the defendant occasioned by delay which cannot fairly be addressed in the trial process. The court will bear in mind its power to regulate the admission of evidence and the ability of the trial process to ensure that all relevant factual issues arising from delay will be placed before the jury for their consideration in accordance with appropriate directions from the judge.
Judge LCJ said: ‘In the overwhelming majority of historic sex allegations, the reasons for the delayed complaint . . bear directly on the credibility of the complainant. They therefore form an essential part of the factual matrix on which the jury must make its decision. That is the principal and, in the overwhelming majority of cases, the only relevance of the evidence on these issues. When, in the authorities to which we have referred, it is clearly stated that an abuse of process argument cannot succeed unless prejudice has been caused to the defendant, the principles do not normally encompass the explanation for the delay, nor do they extend to the explanation or explanations which the judge himself or herself may regard as inadequate or unsatisfactory or inconsistent. Indeed, features like these are revealed by and become apparent through the ordinary processes of a trial and these questions remain pre-eminently for the jury. Although therefore they may be relevant to submissions that there is no case to answer, . . it is difficult to conceive of circumstances in which they have any relevance to an abuse of process argument, unless in some manner they impact on the question whether there can be a fair trial. The explanations for delay are relevant to an application to stay only if they bear on how readily the fact of prejudice may be shown. Unjustified delay in making the complaint and even more so institutional prosecutor misconduct leading to delay . . . . .may make the judge more certain of prejudice, which may even have been the aim of the delay. That is the import of the references in the cases to the reasons for delay. That is, however, a long way from the proposition that unjustified delay is by itself sufficient reason for a stay. It is not.’

Lord Judge CJ
[2012] Crim LR 282, [2011] EWCA Crim 1844, [2012] QB 703, [2011] 2 Cr App R 28, [2012] 1 All ER 565, [2012] 2 WLR 1038
England and Wales
Cited by:
CitedTaylor v Regina CACD 20-Dec-2013
The defendant appealed against his conviction, for sex offences some 33 years earlier, saying that the convictions had been unfairly obtained. Evidence had been available since 1980, but a decision not to prosecute had been taken.
Held: ‘the . .
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 . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Criminal Practice

Leading Case

Updated: 31 October 2021; Ref: scu.442024