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Abuse of Process – ‘A promise, is a promise’

What the case of Mansfield v DPP [2021] EWHC 2938 (Admin) means for an abuse of process defence.

Lloyd Jenkins, one of our experienced higher court advocats, recently drafted an abuse of process argument in respect of a case which has been ongoing since February 2019.

About the case

Briefly, our client and his two co-defendants were 15 years of age at the time.

They confronted a local male, words were exchanged, matters escalated and the male sadly sustained facial bruising and a fractured finger.

The three, then suspects, were interviewed as volunteers by the police in April, July and November 2019 respectively. The police did not present a file of evidence to the CPS until August 2021. Postal Requisitions were finally issued in December 2021 concerning an alleged ABH, some 34 months ago.

My client is now 19years old and remains of good character.

Abuse of process and Mansfield v DPP [2021]

My view is that the belated criminal proceedings should be stayed to protect the integrity of the criminal justice system under category 2, namely that the circumstances of this case are such that a prosecution offends the court’s sense of propriety and justice.

Given that my client is now an adult, he is no longer eligible to be dealt with under the Children First scheme at the police station. Equally, my client would no longer be eligible for a Referral Order before the Youth Court.

As a result, the delay factor has significantly prejudiced my client and the police have yet to provide a reasonable explanation to justify the said delay.

In drafting my argument, I came across the case of Mansfield v DPP [2021] EWHC 2938 (Admin) which not only dealt with an abuse of process but also the situation where an individual has been promised a caution by the police but is subsequently charged with a criminal offence(s).

In the case of Mansfield, the appellant admitted the unlawful possession of a lock knife and possession of a small amount of cannabis, for personal use.

Whilst at the police station, the evidential review officer authorised disposal by way of an adult caution.

It’s important to note that the said admissions were made after the appellant was reassured (and provided with a legitimate expectation) that matters would be disposed of as promised, subject to timely admissions in interview.

Yes, you’ve guessed it, there was a subsequent ‘change of heart’.

The custody sergeant tasked with administering the caution challenged such and so the appellant was charged with possession of a blade and possession of cannabis and bailed to court.

The defence, in the magistrates’ court, submitted that proceedings should be stayed as an abuse of process, given the appellant’s legitimate expectation that he’d receive an adult caution, following timely admissions at the police station.

The prosecution responded that the magistrates’ court had no jurisdiction to consider the issue, which was exclusively a matter for the High Court to
determine. The District Judge agreed with the prosecution.

On appeal, the High Court determined that the District Judge was wrong to find that the magistrates’ court lacked jurisdiction. Furthermore, the High
Court went on to find there was a clear abuse of process, stayed proceedings and quashed the resulting convictions.

As above, a promise, is a promise.

Contact the Public Defender Service to instruct our criminal defence lawyers specialising in complex cases including cases involving youth offences and vulnerable offenders.