Practice and Procedure


PUBLISHED February 12, 2003

Where there had been a delay of more than three years between an allegation of speeding and a trial date, on the facts the magistrates' court had been correct to refuse a stay of proceedings or the vacation of the trial date for non-disclosure on the basis of delay.Application for judicial review of a decision of Stratford Magistrates' Court on 30 September 2002 to refuse to stay proceedings against the applicant ('J') for speeding or to vacate the trial date on the basis of non-disclosure by the prosecution. J had received a summons supported by photographic evidence from a Gatso camera in respect of an alleged speeding offence on 7 July 1999. The trial date had been vacated on a number of occasions, in part over doubt as to whether J wished to adduce expert evidence regarding the camera. On 14 June 2002, the court ordered the prosecution to disclose a list of unused material, a calibration certificate for the camera, a copy of Home Office type approval for the camera and guidelines as to its use. The prosecution later stated that the two latter items were not in its possession and that it had disclosed all the material it had. On J's application to vacate, the magistrates held that: (i) there was no obligation to make the disclosure sought on the basis that s.1(a) Criminal Proceedings and Investigations Act 1996 did not apply as the proceedings had been started by summons and therefore fell outside the meaning of the word "charge" in s.1; and (ii) further to impose an obligation to disclose the type of material sought by J would be disproportionate in terms of resources. Moreover, the magistrates considered that the application to vacate should be refused so that the trial could take place "without any further delay". On the present appeal, the magistrates conceded that the right to disclosure subsisted irrespective of the operation of the 1996 Act but that the decision of the magistrates had been taken on the basis that the application was merely a fishing expedition designed to further delay the proceedings.HELD: (1) The Home Office approval and the guidelines could not be said to be in the possession of the prosecution for disclosure purposes. (2) Even on the assumption that there was a further obligation of disclosure, there was no proper basis on which a stay could have been granted notwithstanding that the finding that proportionality was relevant in terms of resources was erroneous. (3) It was inconceivable that the magistrates should have acceded to a stay given the delay of more than three years. (4) Much of that delay was caused by spurious attempts at delay by D.Application for judicial review refused.