Crime – Summary Offences, Time Limits for Informations and Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO’s)

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Prosecution for a summary-only offence is not time barred by reason of s127 Magistrates’ Courts Act. The recently reported case of Luton Borough Council v Altavon Ltd concerned alleged offences in relation to the management of HMO’s – a criminal offence under the 2004 Housing Act. The defendants asked the court for a ruling that the informations were laid outside the six-month time limit stipulated in s127.

The District Judge found that the offences were “continuing offences” and that s127 required information to be laid within six months of the time “when the offences came to light”. Therefore, they were laid out of time.

One of the issues on appeal was when does time start to run under s127? It was not disputed that the offences identified in the informations were of a continuing nature, so as a matter of fact, the offending continued until the date the appellant council’s private-sector housing officer entered the property. The court ruled that time did not start to run until that date under s127. The informations were ordered to be reinstated.

This is an important clarification for criminal practitioners. If an alleged summary-only offence is continuing, the time in which an information can be laid starts to run from the last known date of the alleged offence not when the offences originally came to light.

For further information on Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO’s) or if you are being prosecuted under the Housing Act for breach of your obligations, why not contact one of Alexander JLO’s expert lawyers and see what we can do for you?

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