Director of Public Prosecutions, Regina (on the Application of) v Chorley Justices and Forrest: Admn 8 Jun 2006

The prosecutor applied for an order to require the magistrates to state a case. He faced a charge of driving with excess alcohol. He pleaded not guilty. There were several adjournments, and a considerable delay. At the trial, and with no forewarning, the defence requested the prosecution to prove service of the certificate of analysis. The address used had been partially incorrect. The magistrates upheld a submission of no case to answer, and rejected a request to state a case as frivolous.
Held: The purpose of the system was to avoid unnecessary litigation and delay.
Thomas LJ said: ‘In April 2005 the Criminal Procedure Rules came into effect. By 15th April they were in force. They have effected a sea change in the way in which cases should be conducted, but it appears from what has happened in this case that not everyone has appreciated the fundamental change to the conduct of cases in the Magistrates’ Courts that has been brought about by the rules. The rules make clear that the overriding objective is that criminal cases be dealt with justly; that includes acquitting the innocent and convicting the guilty, dealing with the prosecution and the defence fairly, respecting the interests of witnesses, dealing with the case efficiently and expeditiously, and also, of great importance, dealing with the case in a way that takes into account the gravity of the offence, the complexity of what is in issue, the severity of the consequences to the defendant and others affected and the needs of other cases. Rule 1.2 imposes upon the duty of participants in a criminal case to prepare and conduct the case in accordance with the overriding objective, to comply with the rules and, importantly, to inform the court and all parties of any significant failure, whether or not the participant is responsible for that failure, to take any procedural step required by the rules.
Rule 3.2 imposes upon the court a duty to further that overriding objective by actively managing the case.
The pertinent part relevant to what happened in this case is the early identification of the real issues. It is, it seems to us, clear that what should have happened is that at the first hearing of a case of this kind, after the entry of the plea of not guilty, the defendant should have been asked first what was in issue. At that stage and at the first hearing, he should then have been asked what witnesses did he need. Quite apart from the question that has arisen in relation to the analyst’s certificate, we simply have no idea why three police officers (who could have been much better employed in protecting the public by being available to do their duty on the beat or elsewhere) were called to court. On what appears before us, their attendance was a complete waste of time and money as the evidence was irrelevant to the issues. Mr Forrest should, thirdly, have been asked what issues were taken by the defence. In our experience, it is very rare in a court, when such a question is asked, that parties do not reply. Most people approach a case on the basis that they want justice done as they wish to be acquitted if they are innocent; it is our experience that the case where a defendant refuses to identify the issue is rare indeed. If a defendant refuses to identify what the issues are, one thing is clear: he can derive no advantage from that or seek, as appears to have happened in this case, to attempt an ambush at trial. The days of ambushing and taking last-minute technical points are gone. They are not consistent with the overriding objective of deciding cases justly, acquitting the innocent and convicting the guilty.’


Thomas LJ, McCombe J


[2006] EWHC 1795 (Admin)




Road Traffic Act 1988 7 9, Criminal Procedure Rules 1.2


CitedWings Ltd v Ellis QBD 1984
Mann J said: ‘The most that could be said for the respondent is that the members of this class [those ruling the company], although establishing a system, failed to establish a system which would have prevented the mistake which occurred. That . .
CitedSunworld Limited v Hammersmith and Fulham London Borough Council QBD 2000
The company faced a prosecution under the 1968 Act, in respect of a brochure. On conviction, the company asked the Crown Court to state a case for the Divisional Court. The Recorder refused as to two points, saying that they were decisions of fact . .

Cited by:

CitedBrett v Director of Public Prosecutions Admn 16-Mar-2009
The defendant faced trial for driving whilst over the prescribed alcohol limit. On a pre-trial review, the prosecution had applied for the evidence of the analyst to be given under the hearsay provisions, on the basis that she was living abroad. She . .
CitedBielecki v The Director of Public Prosecutions Admn 23-Aug-2011
The court had delivered a draft judgment which counsel said was based upon a fundamental misunderstanding of the case she had presented. Counsel now suggested that the matter should be referred to a two judge divisional court. That was refused. The . .
CitedNewell, Regina v CACD 30-Mar-2012
The appellant challenged the introduction in evidence of a previous inconsistent statement lodged on his behalf by counsel on a Plea and Case Management Form at a directions hearing.
Held: The appeal was allowed. An advocate plainly has . .
CitedJames v Director of Public Prosecutions Admn 13-Nov-2015
The appellant challenged her conviction for failing to comply with conditions imposed on a public demonstration. Her demonstration outside the Royal Courts of Justice had brought traffic to a standstill. At trial she had been refused permission to . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Road Traffic, Magistrates

Updated: 07 July 2022; Ref: scu.243377