Criminal Law Week

Does a prosecution time limit start to run as soon as the CPS has the necessary papers?

Aug 9, 2017

The following article is written for Police Professional by the editors of Criminal Law Week. Criminal Law Week is used by criminal justice professionals – including police officers, the CPS, judges and lawyers – to stay up to date with changes in criminal law. Published 46 times a year, each issue summarises important cases and legislation, keeping you on top of the latest developments regarding offences, police powers, the rules of procedure and evidence, and more. Incisive commentary is also provided by James Richardson Q.C., the editor of Archbold. Our online service gives you access to all Criminal Law Week issues, from 1997 to today. These are pulled together in a fully-searchable database, complemented by annotated key criminal legislation. For more information about Criminal Law Week, or to sign up for a free trial of our online service, please visit or call 01483 414 599. Does a prosecution time limit start to run as soon as the CPS has the necessary papers? No, said the Divisional Court in Director of Public Prosecutions v Woodward and others (CLW/17/27/1). Bowood Farms Limited, trading as Bowood Yorkshire Lamb, operated an abattoir at Busby Stoop, Thirsk, North Yorkshire. The first and second defendants, Robert and William Woodward, were directors of the company. The third, fourth and fifth defendants, Kabeer Hussein, Kazam Hussein and Artur Lewandowski, were employed by the company as licensed slaughtermen. On November 30 and December 6 2014, a freelance investigator commissioned by an animal rights organisation, Animal Aid, covertly entered the abattoir and installed a digital video recorder to record the slaughtering practices there. He went back to recover the equipment and footage on December 2 and 13, 2014, respectively. The footage was given to Animal Aid and sent to the Food Standards Agency, which sent it to a veterinary surgeon, who provided an opinion that, over three days of filming, the third, fourth and fifth defendants had potentially committed offences contrary to section 4 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006. On September 15, 2015, the matter was sent to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). On December 14, 2015, additional evidence having been received by the CPS, the matter was allocated to a specialist prosecutor. He conducted several reviews of the case between December, 2015, and February, 2016, seeking further evidence and taking advice. On his final review on March 3, 2016, he decided that the defendants should be prosecuted. Charges were drafted under section 4(1) and (2), and authorised by his unit head on March 7, 2016. Section 4(1) makes it an offence knowingly to cause an animal unnecessary suffering and section 4(2) makes it an offence to permit such suffering to be caused to an animal. The offences under section 4 of the 2006 Act are summary, but section 31 of the 2006 Act disapplies the six-month time limit for charges being brought for a summary offence provided that charges are brought “(a) before the end of the period of three years beginning with the date of the commission of the offence, and (b) before the end of the period of six months beginning with the date on which evidence that the prosecutor thinks is sufficient to justify the proceedings comes to his knowledge”. The magistrates’ court accordingly had to determine if this extended time limit had been complied with, which depended on when “evidence that the prosecutor thinks is sufficient to justify the proceedings comes to his knowledge”. The district judge held that the charges were out of time, but the prosecution appealed. The court held that the time limit for an offence under the 2006 Act is six months from the date upon which the prosecutor considers that, upon the available evidence, it is in the public interest to prosecute the individual. That decision cannot be avoided or delayed by the mere shuffling of papers, or by information being sat on so as to extend the time limit. It demands not merely consideration of whether there is a prima facie case, but wheth

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