West Law Report

Failure to appear in court

Posted in Times Law Report by mrkooenglish on July 22, 2008

From The TimesJuly 21, 2008

Failure to appear in court
Court of Appeal, Criminal Division

Published July 21, 2008

Regina v Noble

Defendants who failed to attend court in response to a summons should not be convicted and sentenced for offences under the Bail Act 1976 or for contempt of court if they were not on bail and/or had received no notice of the summons.

The Court of Appeal, Criminal Division (Lord Justice Maurice Kay, Mr Justice Plender and Judge Stokes, QC) so stated on July 24, 2008, when reducing to 80 hours a 240-hour community punishment order on Ian Noble imposed on September 26, 2007, by Judge Fergus Mitchell at Kingston upon Thames Crown Court. He had admitted a theft of gas.

LORD JUSTICE MAURICE KAY said that the defendant had failed to notify the probation service that he had changed his address, so that they continued to write to him at the old address and, when he failed to respond, a summons was issued also directed at his old address. When he failed to appear a warrant, not backed for bail, was issued for his arrest.

On appeal, their Lordships noted that there was some confusion about whether the judge considered he was dealing with the matter as an offence under section 6 of the 1976 Act or as a contempt of court.

The offences could not be categorised as offences under the 1976 Act because the defendant was not on bail at the time, nor was the failure to appear a contempt of course because, while he had failed to obey the summons, it was an undisputed fact that he knew nothing about it. The finding as to the failure to appear was simply wrong in law.

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