Arrest under warrant and the requirement for a suspect to be placed before next available court

09 September 2020

Not reviewed after the date of publication

Question: 

We are told that anyone arrested under a warrant is to be placed before the next available court.

Having looked at the Magistrates Courts Act 1980, I can see mention of someone being placed before a court, however it makes no mention of it being the next available court.

Please can you confirm if next available court is correct?

Answer:

You are correct that the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980 does not specifically refer to the 'next available court' (section 1(1)(b) states 'bring him before a magistrates' court'); however, the purpose of an arrest warrant is to bring the person before the court and it is our understanding that wording of a warrant will invariably provide an instruction to arrest and bring the suspect before the relevant court 'immediately'. This should be given its common dictionary meaning of 'straight away' or 'at once', although these must be tempered by the need to process, complete the necessary admin, arrange transport and recognise the capacity of the Court etc. Beyond those constraints, there should be no delay in executing the warrant.

In our view, section 46 of PACE adds weight to the above stance. Section 46 uses the words 'as soon as practicable' rather than 'immediately', but this still requires the suspect to be taken to Court without delay. Although section 46 deals with suspects who have been remanded in custody, we can see no reason why a warrant would require any less urgency, and indeed, the word 'immediately' suggests any delay is unacceptable.

'46(2) If he is to be brought before a magistrates' court in the local justice area in which the police station at which he was charged is situated, he shall be brought before such a court as soon as is practicable and in any event not later than the first sitting after he is charged with the offence.'

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