Not reviewed after the date of publication - 10th January 2022


Please can you confirm what the statutory time limit is for common assault / public order hate crime offences? 

CPS have NFA’d various offences stating it is outside the time limit, however I was under the impression there is no such limit if there was a hate crime aggravated factor.


The statutory time limit for hate crimes entirely depend on the offence itself. 

Section 127 of the Magistrates’ Courts Act 1980 provides that summary only offences cannot be tried unless the information is laid before the courts within six months of the offence being committed. ‘Laid before the court’ means that proceedings must be instituted either in line with section 29 or 30 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003.

The three main ways this may be done are:

•    Arrest and charge of the suspect by the prosecution.
•    Prosecution issue a written charge and postal requisition, requiring the suspect to attend court at a later date.
•    Prosecution obtain a summons issued by the court, requiring the suspect to attend on a later date.

Therefore, the suspect doesn’t have to appear before the court within 6 months, but the court must be made aware of the offence/case.

Some statutory exceptions do however allow for proceedings to be brought outside the time limits in relation to particular offences. Please see our documents - Time limits for prosecution of more common offences and - Time limits for prosecution of less common offences on PNLD for further information.

Sections 29 to 32 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 create specific racially or religiously aggravated offences, which have higher maximum penalties than the non-aggravated versions of those offences and section 28 outlines the meaning or racially or religiously aggravated. For example, where a section 4A Public Order Act 1986 has been committed, this is a summary only offence with a statutory time limit of 6 months. Where there has also been an aggravated racial / religious element to the offending behaviour, then the offence to be recorded would be that under section 31 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1988 , which carries a higher penalty, is an either way offence and therefore does not have any statutory time limit for prosecution. 

Under section 66 of the Sentencing Act 2020 there is also a duty upon the courts to increase the sentence for any offence which is motivated or demonstrates hostility based upon race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or transgender identity. Please see CPS prosecution guidance for further information about prosecuting the different strands of hate crime.

To read more legislation about this, login to the legal database.