The complaint had been laid before Magistrates before the expiration of the time limit, but was only considered and the summons issued after the time limit. The House also considered the power of delegation where a justice of the peace or the clerk did not personally receive or consider the information in question.
Held: The information was laid when it was received at the office of the clerk to the justice by a member of the staff expressly or impliedly authorised to receive it. It is for the prosecutor, if he wants to prosecute, to prepare and lay the information before the magistrates. The acts of delivery and receipt are ministerial and justices of the peace or clerks to the justices may delegate to an appropriate subordinate authority. Where a summons is needed, the information must after receipt be laid before a justice or the clerk to the justices; the function of a justice or the justices clerk in deciding whether a summons should be issued is a judicial one which must be performed judicially and which cannot lawfully be delegated to a subordinate.
Lord Roskill said: ‘First, in their criminal jurisdiction, what magistrates’ courts have jurisdiction to try summarily is an information, and what is required to give them that jurisdiction is that an information has been laid before them. Secondly, in their civil jurisdiction, what magistrates’ courts have jurisdiction to try is a complaint, and what is required to give them that jurisdiction is that a complaint has been made to them. Their jurisdiction in criminal cases does not depend upon a summons or a warrant being issued and their civil jurisdiction does not depend on a summons being issued.’ and
‘My Lords, it is of crucial importance to appreciate that the laying of an information is a matter for the prosecution just as the making of a complaint is a matter for the complainant. In each case it is for the prosecutor or the complainant to decide how the information or how the complaint shall be formulated. I agree with the Divisional Court in the present cases that the commencement of criminal proceedings lies in the hands of the prosecutor. It is, in my opinion, the prosecutor’s duty, if he wishes to prosecute, to prepare and lay the information before the magistrates’ court, which means a justice of the peace or the clerk to the justices. The laying of an information before or the making of a complaint to a justice of the peace or the clerk to the justices to my mind means, in reference to a written information or complaint, procuring the delivery of the document to a person authorised to receive it on behalf of the justice of the peace and the clerks. The acts of delivery and receipt are ministerial, and I see no reason why the justice of the peace or the clerk to the justices should not delegate an appropriate subordinate authority to receive the information which the prosecutor desires to deliver. It can sensibly be inferred that any member of the staff in the office of the clerks to the justices authorised to handle incoming post has such authority. Accordingly, once the information has been received at the office of the clerk to the justices, which today in most cases is likely to be at the magistrates’ court house, the information in my view have been laid. No more is required of the prosecutor to launch the intended criminal proceedings. Similarly with a complaint – once the complaint is received at the office of the clerk to the justices no more is required of the complainant.
What happens thereafter is not within the province of the prosecutor or the complainant but of the court.’
Lord Roskill repeated that the foundation of the magistrates’ court’s jurisdiction is the laying of the information or the making of a complaint ‘and not the issue of any summons which may or may not follow the laying of an information or the making of a complaint.’
and ‘I would answer the certified question by saying: ‘An information is laid for the purpose of section 127 of the Magistrates’ Courts Act 1980 when it is received at the office of the clerk to the justices for the relevant area.’ I would add that is not necessary for the information to be personally received by justices of the peace or by the clerks to the justices. It is enough that it is received by any member of the staff of the clerk to the justices, expressly or impliedly authorised to receive it, for onward transmission to a to a justice of the peace, or to the clerk to the justices. The same applies to the making of a complaint.’
 AC 328
Magistrates’ Court Act 1980 127(1)
England and Wales
Cited – Rockall v Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Admn 22-Mar-2007
The defendant appealed against his conviction under the Act, saying that the proceedings had been issued late. The issue was the calculation of the date when proceedings were begun.
Held: There was no justification for reading the wording of . .
Cited – Brown, Regina v CANI 8-Sep-2011
The defendant appealed against his conviction for having had unlawful sex with an underage girl. He had pleaded guilty but now said this had been n a misunderstanding of the law. He had believed the girl to be 15, but his belief that that belief was . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Updated: 11 November 2021; Ref: scu.258451