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1. Where there has been substantial delay in bringing a prosecution, the court may stay (halt) the case as an abuse of process. A stay of proceedings on the ground of unjustifiable delay will only be granted by the courts in exceptional circumstances. It will be very rare for a case to be stayed where there is no fault on the part of the prosecution.
2. To establish abuse of process based on delay, the defendant will need to prove that, because of the delay, s/he will suffer such serious prejudice that a fair trial cannot be held1. Even where delay was unjustifiable, a permanent stay should be the exception rather than the rule2.
3. In considering whether there is likely to be prejudice, the court should consider:
4. Article 6(1) of the ECHR gives the defendant the right to be tried 'within a reasonable time'. This right flows from the time that a person is formally charged or served with a summons (see para 6 below). In HSE prosecutions, this will usually be the time when the summons is served.
5. When a court considers whether there has been a breach of the right to a trial within a reasonable time, they will consider:
6. The House of Lords has held that4:
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