The defendant had been involved in a traffic accident. Very shortly before the expiry of the six month time limit, the prosecutor issued a careless driving summons apparently in order to preserve the possibility of a prosecution without yet having made his mind up to continue. He decided to continue only three months later. The defendant argued that this was an abuse of process, and that he had been prejudiced by the delay. The prosecutor denied that magistrates had jurisdiction to hear such an argument. The magistrates acceded to this but indicated that if they had had such a jurisdiction, they would have accepted that there had been abuse. The defendant appealed.
Held: Magistrates do have a jurisdiction to hear and deteremine an application based on abuse of process. The case was remitted to the magistrates to consider the application.
Donaldson LJ said: ‘For my part, I think that it is open to justices to conclude that it is an abuse of the process of the court for a prosecutor to lay an information when he has not reached a decision to prosecute. The process of laying an information is, I think, assumed by Parliament to be the first stage in a continuous process of bringing a prosecution. Section 104 of the 1952 Act is designed to ensure that prosecutions shall be brought within a reasonable time. That purpose is wholly frustrated if it is possible for a prosecutor to obtain summonses and then, in his own good time and at his convenience, serve them. Of course there may be delays in service of the summonses due perhaps to the evasiveness of the defendant. There may be delays due to administrative reasons which are excusable, but that is not so in this case.’
 1 All ER 884,  2 WLR 203, (1981) 73 Cr App R 67,  QB 445
England and Wales
Cited – Chief Inspector Shields v Devenney CANI 21-Jan-2005
Cited – Re Molloy’s Application CANI 1998
Cited – Regina v Bow Street Magistrates ex parte Kazuhiro Sakashita and Takumi Hashimoto Admn 15-Oct-1996
Cited – Regina v Aylesbury Justices ex parte Kitching and GBS Estates Limited Admn 9-May-1997
The defendant had been convicted of felling trees without a licence. He claimed to have received assurances from the Forestry Commission that he would not be prosecuted. He said the prosecution was an abuse of process. The magistrates held that . .
Cited – Hamilton Jones v David and Snape (a Firm) ChD 19-Dec-2003
The claimant was represented by the respondent firm of solicitors in an action for custody of her children. Through their negligence the children had been removed from the country. She sought damages for the distress of losing her children.
Cited – Regina 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 . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Magistrates, Criminal Practice
Updated: 07 May 2022; Ref: scu.263208