A sub-contracted court security officer at a magistrates’ court was not a court officer with implied authority to accept informations that a borough council was endeavouring to serve, the Administrative Court has ruled.
In Begum & Anor v Luton Borough Council  EWHC 1044 (Admin) the respondent council had sought to serve informations on the last day of the available six months' period provided by s.127(1) of the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980.
The court counter at Luton magistrates' court had been closed some months previously. The informations, which related to 20 alleged offences under the Housing Act 2004, were left with the sub-contracted court security guard.
By the time the informations were passed to the court's administrative staff, they were out of time.
Two related questions arose in the case, Lord Justice Gross said.
The first, and principal, question was whether a sub-contracted court security guard was a court officer with implied authority to accept the informations, within r. 4.3(1)(e) of the Criminal Procedure Rules 2015.
The second, depending on the answer to the first question, was whether the informations were laid by Luton in time.
District Judge Dodds, sitting at Milton Keynes Magistrates' Court, ruled that the informations were laid within the statutory time limit and that court security officers were impliedly authorised to accept service on behalf of Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service.
The appellants, Ghansia and Mumtaz Begum, appealed by way of case stated.
On the first question, Lord Justice Gross said he would be “reluctant to conclude that a court security officer had implied authority to accept an information for the purposes of r.4(3)(1)(e), unless the Crim PR or the practical context require me to do so…. I conclude that they do not.”
The judge, who heard the case with Mr Justice Sweeney, also ruled that the answer to the second question was ‘no’.