The power discussed in the Scunthorpe Justices case is limited to cases where there is an amendment to an existing information (s.123 MCA 1980.) It also held that, on the facts, an offence of wasting police time did not constitute “the same misdoing” as an offence of perverting the course of justice.
The Applicant had faced an allegation of perverting the course of justice arising from a speeding offence. The prosecution alleged that he had gone to some lengths to cover-up the offence and to deceive the police. However, accepting his plea to an offence of wasting police time, it accepted that his wrongdoing was limited to not providing the police with sufficient information about the driver.
The prosecution purported to achieve this resolution by laying an information outside of the six-month time limit. The Applicant pleaded guilty. There was in fact an extant information alleging an offence under s.172 of the Road Traffic Act, but no application to amend was made. The information preferred was a fresh one.
The Applicant appealed to the Court of Appeal. However, because the Judge had sat as a District Judge to hear the fresh information, the correct appeal route was to the Administrative Court. The Court of Appeal reconstituted itself accordingly. It accepted the Applicant’s argument that the error in his case was jurisdictional (as opposed to procedural.) There had been no power to hear the information because it was out-of-time. The proceedings were a nullity and the conviction was quashed. The Court added that in its view the admitted misdoing was fundamentally different from the original allegation, such that applying Scunthorpe principles the result would likely have been the same.
The Applicant was represented by Matthew Stanbury, assigned by the Registrar of Criminal Appeals. The transcript will appear here in due course.