Law Report: Trading standards proceedings not an abuse of court process: Regina v Milton Keynes Magistrates' Court and others, ex parte Roberts - Queen's Bench Divisional Court (Lord Justice Beldam and Mr Justice Buxton) 14 October 1994.

The jurisdiction of the court to restrain a prosecution is to be sparingly exercised.

The Divisional Court dismissed an application by Keith John Roberts for an order of prohibition preventing the justices from committing him for trial on charges under the Trade Marks Act 1938 and the Trade Descriptions Act 1968.

In 1990 the Ford Motor Co discovered that large shipments of counterfeit spare parts bearing Ford trade marks were entering the United Kingdom.

Some consignments were for the applicant's companies which supplied motor parts. Ford, having instructed solicitors to investigate the matter, concluded that offences under the Trade Marks Act and Trade Descriptions Act were being committed on a large scale and reported their findings to the Buckinghamshire and other trading standards offices.

The BTSO, under a plan prepared by Ford's solicitors, exercised its powers to enter and search the companies' premises, with Ford's solicitors and representatives who identified the suspected parts. Subsequently BTSO were given an indemnity by Ford for any compensation claims by the companies if no convictions were obtained.

The BTSO reviewed all the evidence and discussed the case with counsel who advised that proceedings should be brought against the applicant, who was then charged.

The applicant applied for judicial review on the ground that the proceedings were no more than a civil trade mark dispute and were an abuse of the process of the court because in reality it was Ford who was prosecuting and not the BTSO who was empowered to do so and who had surrendered control and exercised no independent judgment.

Geoffrey Cox and Manus Egan (Royds Treadwell) for the applicant; Brian Jubb (County Solictor) for the council; Tobias Davey (Rouse & Co) for Ford.

LORD JUSTICE BELDAM said the court was invited to say the case came within the extended concept of abuse referred to in R v Horseferry Road Justices, ex p Bennett (1993) 3 WLR 90, where the defendant had been brought to face charges by unlawful means, that the jurisdiction of the court to restrain a prosecution was one to be sparingly exercised and only if the misconduct in the proceedings was shown to be so serious that to allow the prosecution to proceed would be tantamount to endorsing behaviour which undermined or degraded the rule or law or because the court's process was being manipulated in a manner which caused serious prejudice to the accused.

The applicant had failed to prove conduct of that calibre. Trading standard officers were given a wide discretion to enlist the help of others in searching premises for obtaining evidence involving specialist knowledge.

There was no evidence that the existence of the indemnity played any part in the way the BTSO exercised its powers or in any final decision to take proceedings against the applicant.

No abuse of process was shown. The application was dismissed.