Begum & Anor v Luton Borough Council, England and Wales High Court (Administrative Court), 4th May 2018.
Subject: Appeal against a judgement made by Judge Dodd at Milton Keynes Crown Court, (9th June 2017)
The Respondent, Luton Borough Council endeavoured to serve information to Luton Magistrates Court on the last day of the 6 month period allocated by section 127 (1) of the Magistrates’ Courts Act 1980. Luton Magistrates Court had been closed some months previously. The information was left with a sub-contracted court security guard at the magistrates’ court. By the time the information was passed to the court’s administrative staff, the information was out of time.
The basis of Mr Justice Sweeney’s judgement on this matter relied upon the answers to two related questions;
- Whether a sub-contracted court security guard was a court officer with implied authority to accept the information, within regulation 4.3(1) (e) of the Criminal Procedure Rules 2015?
- Depending on the answer to question 1), whether the information was laid in time?
The respondent, Luton Borough Council’s answers to these questions was yes and the appellants, Begum & Anor’s answers to these questions was No.
After hearing the rival arguments put forward by lawyers representing Luton Borough Council and Begum, during which there was no dispute that the information could have been laid by emailing it to the court. Mr Justice Sweeney stated in his judgement that “leaving the laying of an information until the very last day is necessarily fraught with risk”.
In overall conclusion Mr Justice Sweeney’s formal answers to the questions posed by the case are as follows:
So the appeal was upheld.
Luton Borough Council failed to lay information with the court within the specified time limit. Also, their judgement as to whether they should respond to the appeal was flawed resulting in the Council Tax payer indirectly paying the costs of court fees and the costs of employing a lawyer, Ms Rao, to respond to the appeal.
Therefore, legitimate questions of public interest are. 1) Were these circumstances symptoms of a malaise within Luton Borough Council and Luton Magistrates Court caused by Government cuts? and 2) What will be the effects of Government cuts on the provision and operation of Council services in the future?