Wednesday, March 26, 2014

An interesting decision at the Royal Courts of Justice

Lord Justice Treacy
Thanks to Brig. (ret) Anthony Paphiti's excellent website, this blog's attention has been drawn to an interesting decision of the Courts Martial Appeal Court in R. v. S. [2013] EWCA Crim 2579. At issue in this government appeal was whether the Assistant Judge Advocate General (Large, J.) who presided below had erred in holding that the time limit for pursuing certain offenses (battery) in civilian court also applied in a court-martial for civil offences contrary to section 42 of the Armed Forces Act 2006. Held, per Treacy, L.J.,
The prosecution has laid its charges under legislation recently considered by Parliament which did not choose to fetter the bringing of prosecutions by reference to time limits in the way in which it has done in relation to offences committed by civilians. In those circumstances, what is said to be the different treatment of service personnel from civilians is sanctioned by Parliament and cannot be described as an affront to public justice or something which compromises the integrity of the justice system. [Para. 24.]
Also of interest is the fact that the court permitted the appeal to go forward even though the accused (respondent on the appeal), identified only as S, was absent without leave at the time of the hearing. The court observed at the outset:
The respondent has not attended before the court. She is said to have gone absent without leave. Notification of the date of appeal has been sent to her last known address and has not been returned. She is represented at this hearing by counsel. The appeal before us is on a ground which involves a question of law which was raised in the proceedings below on behalf of the respondent. There is no practical contribution that she can make to these proceedings and her counsel is in no way hampered from fully representing her interests. Having regard to R v Charles and Tucker [2001] 2 Cr.App.R 15, we are satisfied that at the very least counsel has implied authority to represent the respondent. Accordingly, there seems to us to be no reason why we should not proceed with this hearing and Mr Surtees-Jones representing the respondent has not made any submission to the contrary. He confirms that the respondent was aware that appeal proceedings were in train. [Para. 3.]

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