Abuse of process in criminal proceedings
Abuse of process in criminal proceedings

The following Corporate Crime practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Abuse of process in criminal proceedings
  • Staying a prosecution for abuse of process
  • Delay
  • Failing to secure or preserve evidence
  • Failure to disclose evidence
  • Breach of promise not to prosecute
  • Abuse of executive power
  • Autrefois acquit and autrefois convict as a ground of abuse
  • Prosecution motivated by financial gain
  • Abuse of process in private prosecutions
  • More...

The procedure for making an application to stay proceedings due to abuse of process is governed by rule 3.28 of the Criminal Procedure Rules 2020, SI 2020/759 (CrimPR). For more information, see Practice Note: Abuse of process procedure.

Staying a prosecution for abuse of process

The principle of abuse of process is founded on the fact that there should be a fair trial according to the law that is fair to both the defendant and the prosecution.The courts have an overriding duty to promote justice and prevent injustice. From this duty arises an inherent power to stay an indictment (or stop a prosecution in the magistrates' courts) if the court is of the opinion that to allow the prosecution to continue would amount to an abuse of its process.

Following the implementation of the CrimPR, decisions have indicated that technical rather than jurisdictional grounds of abuse will not be allowed to impede the overriding objective.

There are two categories of case in which the court has the power to stay proceedings for abuse of process:

  1. where the court concludes that the accused can no longer receive a fair hearing, and

  2. where it would otherwise be unfair to try the accused or, put another way, where a stay is necessary to protect the integrity of the criminal justice system

In considering the second category, the court has to exercise

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