Appearing on behalf of the CPS Appeals Unit as an interested party in the case of Ensor v Birmingham Magistrates’ Court, Nicholas de la Poer successfully resisted a judicial review arising from a conviction in the Magistrates’ Court. The defendant Magistrates’ Court had declined to participate in the proceedings.
The case engaged questions as to whether the Claimant should have proceeded by way of case stated or judicial review. The Court accepted Nicholas’s arguments as to the substantive merits of the application and refused it.
It is likely to form an important part of the canon of law which applies to the Magistrates’ Court, in that it addresses whether a number of failures to follow the Practice Direction and resultant case law, as it relates to the legal advisor, will give rise to the quashing of a conviction.
The failures, on the facts of the case, were a failure to announce that the legal advisor was joining the Magistrates’ in retirement, a failure to announce what advice had been given in retirement and the tendering of advice in relation to sentence prior to the announcement of the verdict.
Lord Justice Treacy, sitting as a divisional court with Mr Justice Singh, held that the failures which there had been did not give rise to procedural unfairness and that the Claimant had received a fair trial. In so finding, the Court adopted a test which had previously been propounded in analogous circumstances in a case arising from the regulation of doctors in the General Medical Council, cited by Nick in his argument. The Court also adopted the reasoning from an authority from Scotland, also cited by Nick.
Finally, the Court gave guidance on what is expected of a Magistrates’ Court in the future when similar challenges are brought, stating that there is an expectation that the High Court will receive evidence from the lower court once permission had been granted.