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6 Month Rule Explained
firefly
post Tue, 5 Oct 2004 - 14:57
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Hi all,

The '6 month rule' that is frequently talked about on these boards refers to how much time the CPS have to 'lay the information' with the court with a view to prosecuting. In effect, if the Police don't pass your file to them, you will be off the hook. The two most likely occasions where this would happen would be :

i) If you fail to respond to an Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP)
ii) If the speed marked on the NIP was too great to be dealt with by way of a fixed penalty and required a court case.

The 6 month limit is enshrined in law. Namely, The Magistrates Court Act 1980 :
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127 Limitation of Time

(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.

(2) Nothing in--
(a) subsection (1) above; or
( B) subject to subsection (4) below, any other enactment (however framed or worded) which, as regards any offence to which it applies, would but for this section impose a time-limit on the power of a magistrates' court to try an information summarily or impose a limitation on the time for taking summary proceedings,
shall apply in relation to any indictable offence.

(3) Without prejudice to the generality of paragraph ( B) of subsection (2) above, that paragraph includes enactments which impose a time-limit that applies only in certain circumstances (for example, where the proceedings are not instituted by or with the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions or some other specified authority).

(4) Where, as regards any indictable offence, there is imposed by any enactment (however framed or worded, and whether falling within subsection (2)( B) above or not) a limitation on the time for taking proceedings on indictment for that offence no summary proceedings for that offence shall be taken after the latest time for taking proceedings on indictment.

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So for example; if you received an NIP which specified an alleged offence on the 1st January 2004, the speeding offence would 'time out' on the 2nd July 2004.
If you did not respond (or responded insufficiently) to the NIP, then the different charge of s172 (or failure to provide driver's identity) would time out 28 days + 6 months after the date on of service of the NIP: i.e. offence date 1st January, NIP date 5th January - so 28 days + 6 months after 5th. [Any offence of failing to provide the required information within 28 days of service of the notice is committed when that 28 day period expires].
Remember, though, that you are not yet safe on the 'time out' date.
The summons can arrive later, it is just that it is now too late to 'lay the information'.
If you know the court where the case would be heard, you can check with them that there is no information laid in your name.
Whilst in theory this can do no harm because it is too late, experience tells us that it is better to wait a week or so, because there would appear to be skullduggery in some areas.

This post has been edited by andy_foster: Thu, 27 Mar 2008 - 11:44


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post Tue, 5 Oct 2004 - 14:57
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jeffreyarcher
post Wed, 26 Oct 2005 - 01:19
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In Scotland, the 6 months rule is slightly different. There, it comes from
Section 136 of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995.
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136 Time limit for certain offences.
(1) Proceedings under this Part of this Act in respect of any offence to which this section applies shall be commenced•
(a) within six months after the contravention occurred;
( B) in the case of a continuous contravention, within six months after the last date of such contravention,
and it shall be competent in a prosecution of a contravention mentioned in paragraph ( B) above to include the entire period during which the contravention occurred.

(2) This section applies to any offence triable only summarily and consisting of the contravention of any enactment, unless the enactment fixes a different time limit.

(3) For the purposes of this section proceedings shall be deemed to be commenced on the date on which a warrant to apprehend or to cite the accused is granted, if the warrant is executed without undue delay.

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The explanation with respect to the relative timing of the offences and the time-out date is the same as for Engand & Wales, except that you are safe once the time-out date has passed.

Unfortunately, Scots law is full of booby traps for the unwary unrepresented accused, and the six months rule is no exception.
The Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995, Section 144.
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144 Procedure at first diet.

(4) Any objection to the competency or relevancy of a summary complaint or the proceedings thereon, or any denial that the accused is the person charged by the police with the offence shall be stated before the accused pleads to the charge or any plea is tendered on his behalf.

(5) No objection or denial such as is mentioned in subsection (4) above shall be allowed to be stated or issued at any future diet in the case except with the leave of the court, which may be granted only on cause shown.

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So, an objection to the competency of the charge has to be stated before the plea is entered, otherwise it's too late. Quite how one does this in the case of a plea by letter, I've no idea.

Whilst I am unaware of any 'out of time' summonses having been issued, if you are in this position, you should seek legal advice on the matter, or failing that, at least attend the pleading diet in person.

This post has been edited by firefly: Thu, 12 Jan 2006 - 20:12
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