How long do the police and the Crown Prosecution Service have to file charges against you?

If you are being investigated for a criminal offense, you are probably concerned about how long it will take for the investigation to conclude. This could be because you have not committed a crime and want your name cleared, or because you have committed a crime and want the case to end so you can move on with your life.

Being under criminal investigation for an offense, regardless of your circumstances, is terrifying. This blog aims to clarify how long the police can investigate an offense and how long it takes to charge you.

Only Summary Offenses

Offenses that can be tried only briefly (this refers to cases that can only be heard in the Magistrates' Court) have different rules than cases that can be heard in the Crown Court (these are referred to as Cases that can be tried either way or indictable are discussed further below. )

S In the majority of cases, Section 127 of the Magistrates' Court Act 1980 imposes a strict time limit of 6 months from the time the offence is committed for the information to be 'laid on the court.' There are some narrow exceptions to this rule.

This does not necessarily imply that a hearing must be held within 6 months. When a charge is 'laid on the court,' it means that the Police or Crown Prosecution Service must have notified the Court Clerks of it by that date. The Clerks will then issue a summons to that person to appear in court.

As a result, you may not receive a summons with a court date within 6 months of committing the offense.

If you intend to enter a not guilty plea during your first court appearance, a trial date will be set. This is most likely a few months after the first hearing. It is entirely possible that a case will be filed. could despite the time limits on summary-only offenses, not appear in court for over a year

In any case, and only indictable offenses

In contrast to legislation that limits the amount of time a case can be investigated before it is brought to court in summary only cases, there is no such legislation for either way or indictable only offenses.

This means that you could be charged with a crime that occurred years ago at any time during your life.

When an allegation is made years, if not decades, later, it can be especially troubling for the individual involved. Our specialist team at Old Bailey Solicitors understands that certain facts may be hazy or completely forgotten. Our expert lawyers will take the time to ask the right questions, which may elicit previously hidden or forgotten memories.

Our caring team understands that these are difficult questions to answer and that they may elicit feelings that have been suppressed. We understand that revisiting past events can be upsetting. Our non-judgmental and caring team will ensure that we get to the bottom of the problem while also providing you with the support you need to deal with a historic allegation.

How long might I be under investigation? Bail Release vs. Investigation Release

It has become common practice in recent years for a person to be'released under investigation' rather than bailed.

Bail will still be used in many situations, such as to protect victims in domestic violence situations or to prevent interference with witnesses.

Initially, police can release a person on bail for up to 28 days. After those 28 days, you must return to the police station specified. There are several rules that govern the extension of pre-charge bail after the first 28 days, which will be covered in another blog.

  Release is being investigated

In several ways, being released under investigation differs from being released on bail. If you are released while under investigation, the following rules apply:

  1.   You are not required to return to the police station on a specific date or time.
  2.   You do not have any conditions that limit your life;
  3.   There is no time limit on how long you can be released while under investigation.

Due to resource and staff constraints, as well as the sheer volume of cases being investigated by the police at any given time, it is not uncommon for a person to be released under investigation for months at a time. Years, in some cases

Being released under investigation without an end date can be intimidating, to say the least. Our dedicated team will make certain that the officer assigned to your case is regularly contacted for updates, and we will relay any information we receive to keep you informed and in the loop at all times.

Please see our dedicated blog post written by our Managing Director, Rod Hayler, for more information on being Released Under Investigation: What does being Released Under Investigation (RUI’d) mean?What does it mean to be Released Under Investigation (RUI)?

Child Criminal Behavior

The criminal responsibility age in England and Wales is ten years old As a result, if a person commits a crime under the age of ten, they cannot be prosecuted for that crime in the future.

The same rules as stated above apply to summary-only offenses. As a result, if an allegation of a summary only offence, such as common assault, that you committed between the ages of 10 and 18 is discovered after 6-months, or when you become an adult, you cannot be charged with that offence.

However, even if committed as a child, an either way or summary only offense can be investigated and charged as an adult.

It is important to remember that the Crown Prosecution Service will consider the severity of the alleged offence, the age of the person when it was committed, and whether it is now in the public interest to prosecute that offence when deciding whether to prosecute.

For example, prosecuting a rape allegation committed by a 17-year-old who is not reported until years later is much more likely to be in the public interest than prosecuting a shoplifting offence committed by a 12-year-old who is reported much later in the future.

Prosecution in Retrospect

It is extremely unlikely that legislation will be enacted that makes previously legal actions or behaviors illegal. This would not be the case if the offense was covered by another piece of legislation.

As a result, if your conduct was legal at the time it occurred, but later legislation prohibited it, you would not likely be criminally liable or prosecutable for that conduct, except in very exceptional circumstances where retrospective prosecution is permitted by a new offence.

However, if you continue to engage in this behavior after the new legislation is enacted, you will face criminal charges.

This is highly unlikely to occur because previously enacted legislation usually covers newly legislated conduct. Strangulation and suffocation, for example, became separate offenses in 2022. Previously, a strangulation offense could have been classified as GBH or attempted murder. As a result, strangling someone before 2022 was already legal.

If you are accused of an offense that you believe was legal at the time of your conduct, it is critical that you seek legal counsel immediately. Old Bailey Solicitors are available to provide legal advice. Our expert team will examine the legislation to provide you with specific advice on the allegation you are facing.


It is unfortunate that recent cuts to policing and court services have slowed the progression of cases. As a result, it is not uncommon for a person to be released under investigation for months, if not years. If they are charged, the slow progression through the courts can cause cases to take much longer than they should.

If you have been accused of an offense you may have committed a long time ago, or if you are currently under investigation as a result of an interview, contact us right away. Get in touch with us right now. for clear, sound advice on the law's applicability and your case

Old Bailey Solicitors takes a proactive approach to our clients' cases, attempting to avoid criminal proceedings wherever possible. Please contact me for a confidential, no-obligation discussion of your specific situation. contact us

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