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Legal Time Limits

Almost everything in the Magistrates’ Court has a time limit – including when offences can be charged.


For all summary offences (so offences that can only be tried in the Magistrates’ Court, such as speeding or driving whilst using a mobile phone) the charge must be laid within 6 calendar months of the offence (MCA 1980, s.127).

‘Laying’ a charge means that the Police must authorise the charge within 6 months. It may then take a few weeks to actually get to you – so not receiving it within 6 months, or if the hearing is not within 6 months, does not automatically means that the offence is out of time.

The day after the offence is day 1 (Marren v Dawson Bentley & Co Ltd). Example: offence committed on 1st Jan – day 1 of limitation is 2nd Jan and the police have until 23.59 on the 1st July to lay information. Information laid on the 2nd July would be out of time.

There is no limitation for either way or indictable offences – so they are offences which can be tried in the Crown Court (for example, dangerous driving).


A defendant has 15 business days to appeal from the Mags Court to the Crown Court.

The day of the hearing is day 1. So for example the hearing is on the 1 November, so last day to appeal is the 21 November, NOT the 22nd.

If conviction and sentence are on different days (eg the defendant is convicted on one day but the sentence adjourned to a later date) appeals against conviction must be lodged within 21 days of conviction, not sentence.

Appeals lodged out of time will need to be made subject to an application for leave to appeal, and whether to allow it entirely at the discretion of the Crown Court and may be refused.

Single Justice Procedure Notice

A SJPN must be responded to within 21 days after service of the SJPN on the defendant.

Day 1 of service is day 1 to respond.

For example, the posting date on the SJPN is the 1 November. The date of service will be the 2 November. The last day to respond will be the 22 November. So a response sent to the Court on 23 November will be out of time.

If no response has been sent within the above 21 days the Court may try the case in the defendants absence and find them guilty.