Plea To Indictment That Had Never Been Properly Amended Is A Nullity

R. v Leeks (David Edward) [2009] EWCA Crim 1612; [2010] 1 Cr. App. R. 5



The appellant (L) appealed against his conviction (after a guilty plea) for causing death by careless driving when unfit through drink, contrary to the Road Traffic Act 1988 s.3A(1)(a). After the disposal of the case, court staff realised that the indictment had never properly been amended and drew the matter to the attention of the judge. L subsequently launched his appeal, arguing that the count to which he had pleaded guilty was invalid. L submitted that he had pleaded guilty to an indictment that never lawfully existed, and that the proceedings had to be treated as a nullity. The Crown submitted that by allowing the admission of the roadside breath test, the judge had either already made an order permitting the amendment or was proposing so to do, or that he was implicitly making such an order.

Appeal allowed. Amendment of an indictment was a serious matter and not a mere matter of formality, R. v Clarke (Ronald Augustus) [2008] UKHL 8, [2008] 1 W.L.R. 338 followed. L's plea and his subsequent conviction were founded on a nullity and had to be quashed. That left in place the original, valid, indictment upon which the prosecution might wish to proceed, with or without a further application for amendment.

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