Summary prosecution time limit

06 May 2020

Not reviewed after the date of publication

Question:

Summary offences have a statutory time limit for prosecutions of 6 months. Does the suspect have to appear before court within the 6 months?

Answer: 

Section 127 of the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980 provides that 'summary only' offences cannot be tried unless the information or complaint is laid within six months of the offence being committed:

'127(1) Except as otherwise expressly provided by any enactment and subject to subsection (2) below, a magistrates' court shall not try an information or hear a complaint unless the information was laid, or the complaint made, within 6 months from the time when the offence was committed, or the matter of complaint arose.'

The laying of an information is the procedure by which a statement is brought to a magistrate's attention, informing the magistrate of the offence for which a summons or warrant is required. 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.

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