Time limits for commencing criminal proceedings
Time limits for commencing criminal proceedings

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

  • Time limits for commencing criminal proceedings
  • Time limits for summary only offences
  • When does time start to run?
  • Time limit—from date of discovery by the prosecutor
  • Time limit—from the date on which the prosecutor thinks it has sufficient evidence to justify the proceedings
  • Statutory extension to the six-month time limit
  • Amendment of summons outside statutory time limits
  • Time limits for indictable offences and either way offences

For information on how criminal prosecutions are commenced in England and Wales, see Practice Notes: Commencing criminal proceedings—applying for the issue of a summons and Commencing criminal proceedings—written charge and requisition or single justice procedure notice.

Time limits for summary only offences

The Magistrates’ Courts Act 1980 (MCA 1980) imposes time limits for commencing criminal proceedings which can only be heard in the magistrates’ court (unless another time limit has been set by statute). Under these provisions, a magistrates' court may not try a defendant for a summary offence unless the information was laid (application for summons made) within six months from the date of the commission of the offence. This is replicated in CrimPR, r 7.2(10). Provided the information is laid (or application for a summons made) within that time, it does not matter if the summons is not issued by the court within that time limit.

The same time limit applies to the making of a complaint. A complaint for these purposes is a demand for a civil order that something be done, and, although civil proceedings by nature, are within the magistrates court’s civil jurisdiction.

Note that, although MCA 1980, s 127 refers only to the laying of an information (ie applying for a summons), where a prosecution is initiated by the written charge and requisition process, the written charge also must be issued

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