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Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011

Arrest warrants

Section 153: Restriction on issue of arrest warrants in private prosecutions

423.Section 153 provides that the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions is required before a magistrate can issue an arrest warrant to a private prosecutor in respect of certain offences alleged to have been committed outside the United Kingdom.

424.Section 1 of the Magistrates’ Courts Act 1980 (‘the 1980 Act’) concerns the jurisdiction of magistrates’ courts to issue criminal process. It gives a magistrates’ court the power, on the laying of an information, to issue a summons or to issue a warrant for the arrest of the person named in the information (the suspect), in order to bring the person before the court to answer to the allegation. The section inserts five new subsections (4A) - (4E) into section 1 of the 1980 Act and amends section 25 of the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985 (‘the 1985 Act’).

425.Subsection (4A), where it applies, limits the power of a magistrates’ court to issue a warrant. No warrant can be issued without first receiving the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions. The consent thus becomes a condition precedent to the issue of a warrant. The provision applies where the information is laid by someone who is not a public prosecutor (this expression is defined by new subsection (4B) as having the same meaning as in section 29 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003), and only in respect of certain offences, as defined in subsections (4C) and (4D).

426.Under subsection (4C), subsection (4A) applies to qualifying offences listed in subsection (4D), alleged to have been committed outside the United Kingdom, and to ancillary offences (such as conspiracy or attempt) in relation to qualifying offences that were committed outside the United Kingdom (or would have been had the offence proceeded that far). Aiding and abetting a qualifying offence is not listed separately as an ancillary offence, because under the criminal law relating to principals and accessories a person who aids and abets the commission of the qualifying offence would commit the qualifying offence.

427.Subsection (4D) is a list of offences in respect of which the United Kingdom asserts universal jurisdiction, namely, those offences that may be tried in England and Wales even though the crime took place outside the United Kingdom, and regardless of the nationality or residence of the offender.

428.Subsection (2) of section 153 inserts a new subsection (2A) into section 25 of the 1985 Act, which provides that section 25(2)(a) of that Act is subject to new subsection (4A) of the 1980 Act.

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