Ruth v Regina

Where, at the Magistrates’ Court, a defendant indicated a guilty plea to an either-way offence, but that offence was subsequently sent to the Crown Court under section 51(3) Crime and Disorder Act 1998, rather than committed for sentence, but was then not added to the indictment, there was no conviction for this offence – even though the Magistrates’ Court could have convicted under section 9(3) of the Magistrates’ Court Act 1980

On 23 August 2013, the Appellant pleaded guilty to two offences. On 13 September 2013, he appeared before the Magistrates' Court in respect of two other separate counts of possessing offensive weapons – a knuckleduster and a ball and chain respectively. In respect of the former, the Appellant indicated that, if the offence were to proceed to trial, he would plead guilty; in respect of the latter, he indicated that he would plead not guilty.

At the Crown Court, he was sentenced to 33 months detention in total. This included a sentence for the knuckleduster offence and, by virtue of this apparent conviction, re-sentencing for an earlier conditional discharge.

Being an either-way offence, possession of an offensive weapon falls within section 50A Crime and Disorder Act 1998 ("the 1998 Act"). The guilty plea for the knuckleduster offence falls within section 50A (3)(b) of the 1998 Act, which applies section 17A(6) Magistrates' Courts Act 1980 ("the 1980 Act"), which, in turn, applies section 9(1)&(3) of the 1980 Act. This final section reads as follows:
"If the accused pleads guilty, the court may convict him without hearing evidence."

Therefore, it was open to the Magistrates' Court to have convicted the Appellant of the knuckleduster offence. However, there was no memorandum of conviction and no order made for committal to the Crown Court for sentence.

In fact, the court sent the ball and chain offence to the Crown Court under section 51(1) of the 1998 Act and also sent the knuckleduster offence for trial as a related offence under section 51(3) of the 1998 Act – but no indictment was then preferred and nothing was added to the existing indictment. Consequently, there was no arraignment and no plea.

Held, there was no proper conviction for the knuckleduster offence and therefore no offence was committed during the period of the conditional discharge. Therefore, the sentence for both of these offences must be quashed.


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