Where there had been a breach of the reasonable time requirement in Art.6(1) European Convention on Human Rights it would not be appropriate to stay criminal proceedings unless there could no longer be a fair trial or it was otherwise unfair to try the defendant. The relevant period of time would ordinarily begin when a defendant was formally charged or served with a summons.Appeal from a judgment of the Court of Appeal on a reference by the Attorney General to the Court of Appeal of two points of law relating to the application in criminal proceedings of the right in Art.6 European Convention on Human Rights to a trial within a reasonable time. In April 1998 there was a serious disturbance at an English prison when 32 prisoners barricaded themselves in an association room and caused damage to property. Prison officers were sent in to clear the barricades and regain control of the area. The inmates resisted and there was considerable violence before order was restored. An investigation into the incident began the following day. Potential defendants were interviewed by the police in June and July 1998. The police submitted their paperwork to the Crown Prosecution Service in July. Informations were laid against seven prisoners in February 2000 and in June 2000 they were committed for trial in the crown court charged with a single count of violent disorder contrary to s.2(1) Public Order Act 1986. When the trial began in 2001 the defendants submitted that the delay in bringing the charges to trial had been such that to proceed with the trial would be contrary to Art.6. The trial judge agreed and stayed the proceedings. The defendants were afterwards acquitted when the prosecution offered no evidence. The Attorney General referred to the Court of Appeal the questions: (i) whether criminal proceedings should be stayed for failure to comply with the reasonable time requirement in Art.6(1) where the accused could not demonstrate any prejudice arising from the delay; and (ii) when, for the purposes of Art.6, the relevant period of time commenced. The Court of Appeal held that time started to run ordinarily when the defendant was charged or served with a summons as a result of an information being laid (but could exceptionally start running earlier) and that a stay should not normally be imposed if a fair trial was possible. The questions were referred to the House of Lords by the Court of Appeal.HELD: (1) A breach of the reasonable time requirement in Art.6(1) should not automatically lead to a stay of proceedings (HM Advocate v R (2003) 2 WLR 317 not followed). The right of a criminal defendant was to a hearing and there was no support in the Convention or case law for the contention that there should be no hearing of a criminal charge once a reasonable time had passed. A stay would never be an appropriate remedy if any lesser remedy, such as a declaration, a reduction in sentence or an award of damages, would adequately vindicate the defendant's Convention right. It would not be appropriate to stay the proceedings unless there could no longer be a fair trial or it was for any compelling reason unfair to try the defendant. (Per Lord Hope and Lord Rodger dissenting) After a breach of the reasonable time requirement in Art.6 any further proceedings were unlawful by virtue of s.6 Human Rights Act 1998. (2) The Court of Appeal was right to hold that the relevant period would ordinarily begin when a defendant was formally charged or served with a summons. As a general rule the period would begin at the earliest time at which a person was officially alerted to the likelihood of criminal proceedings against him. Interview or arrest would not normally mark the beginning of the period.
 UKHL 68