Rahmdezfouli, Regina (on The Application of) v Crown Court Sitting At Wood Green and Another: Admn 9 Oct 2013

The appellant challenged the refusal to allow him to vacate a guilty plea to a charge of failures to comply with a planning enforcement notice. It had been agreed that the magistrates had failed to ask the two questions required under the 1980 Act. The claimant contended that the Crown Court Judge erred in refusing to allow him to vacate his plea after finding as a fact that the magistrates’ court clerk had ‘failed to ask the statutory questions of the applicant’ as required by s.17A of the MCA. It was not disputed that the requisite procedure had not been followed ‘in any respect’, and ‘defence counsel conferred with his client and on coming into court told the court that his client wished to plead guilty to the offence. It was argued by the Interested Party . . that it was therefore appropriate for the court to accept from what counsel said that this defendant was fully aware of the implications of the offence to which he was intending to plead guilty and should therefore be regarded as having been fully informed before making that decision.’
The claimant, submitted: ‘that there was a requirement that the defendant should at the least have explained to him by the court, in ordinary language as the section requires, of four essential things: that the offence he faced was an either way offence; that he would be asked for an indication as to his plea if the case proceeded to trial; that if he indicated he wished to plead guilty that would be treated as a guilty plea; and fourthly that the court had the power to send him to the Crown Court for sentence if it thought right so to do.’Mackay J replied: ‘The issue therefore in this claim is whether it was the intention of Parliament that a failure to follow the statutory procedure laid down in section 17A rendered all subsequent proceedings invalid and a nullity, or whether they were to be considered a procedural failure.’ The claimant submiitted that the failure in that case ‘went to the heart of the court’s jurisdiction’. A magistrates’ court only derived its jurisdiction from statute and was only entitled to try an either way offence, as opposed to a summary offence, where the statutory requirement has been fully complied with. Mackay J observed that there was ‘a clear line of authority’ supporting that submission. He referred, inter alia, to Cockshott and Ex p Machin. He noted that theauthorities were not disapproved in Ashton. Quashing the conviction, Mackay J reasoned: ‘Adopting the criterion expressed in paragraph 4 of Ashton and not disapproved by the House of Lords in [Clarke] the legislature in enacting section 17A must have intended . . acting in line with then existing authority, that where a magistrates’ court declined or failed to follow the requirements of the section it was acting without jurisdiction every bit as much as if, for instance, it had purported to try a defendant on a charge of homicide . . ..’

Moses LJ, MacKay J
[2013] EWHC 2998 (Admin), [2013] WLR(D) 377, (2013) 177 JP 677, [2014] 1 All ER 567, [2014] Crim LR 158, 177 JP 677, [2014] 1 Cr App R 20
Bailii, WLRD
Magistrates Court Act 1980 17A
England and Wales
CitedRegina v Kent Justices, Ex parte Machin 1952
The applicant had been charged before the justices with indictable offences. He consented to summary trial but it had not been explained to him that he might be committed to the Quarter Sessions for sentence.
Held: The court allowed . .
CitedClarke, Regina v; Regina v McDaid HL 6-Feb-2008
An indictment had not been signed despite a clear statutory provision that it should be. The defects were claimed to have been cured by amendment before sentence.
Held: The convictions failed. Sections 1(1) and 2(1) of the 1933 Act which . .

Cited by:
CitedWestminster City Council v Owadally and Another Admn 17-May-2017
Defendant must plea to charge, and not counsel
The defendants had, through their barrister, entered pleas of guilty, but the crown court had declared the convictions invalid because this had to have been done by the defendants personally, and remitted the cases and the confiscation proceedings . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Criminal Practice, Magistrates

Updated: 21 November 2021; Ref: scu.516326