R v Cox [2014] EWCA Crim 804

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Court of Appeal, Criminal Division
Lord Justice Beatson, Mr Justice Holroyde and Mrs Justice Carr

The defendant, aged 49, was convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 14 years' imprisonment. She contended that, thinking that she was going to be strangled to death, she had used a knife in self-defence to stab the deceased. The judge admitted evidence of the defendant's bad character in the form of: (i) a 1992 conviction on a guilty plea for inflicting grievous bodily harm; (ii) a 2002 conviction on a guilty plea for using threatening words or behaviour and possessing an offensive weapon; and (iii) the circumstances under which the defendant was, by consent, bound over in 2010 for an alleged breach of the peace. The prosecution contended that those incidents showed that three times in the past 21 years, the defendant had used, produced or sought a knife for an unlawful purpose. The defendant appealed against conviction.

The defendant contended that the bad character evidence did not fall within s 101(1)(d) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 and, in any event, should have been excluded pursuant to s 101(3) of the Act because its admission would have such an adverse effect on the fairness of the proceedings that the court ought not to admit it.

The appeal would be dismissed.

The defendant's convictions were relevant to an important matter in issue between the defendant and the prosecution, under s 101(1)(d) of the Act. Further, the evidence should not have been excluded pursuant to s 101(3) of the Act. The judge had been fully entitled to come to the conclusion that he had and it could not be said that he had exercised his discretion, under s 101(3) of the Act, in a manner that had been outside the range open to a reasonable decision-maker. Furthermore, on the facts of the case, the evidence of the three incidents was not such as would divert the attention of the court into satellite issues because the essential factual matters in those incidents had not been in dispute. Moreover, in the light of all the other evidence in the case, it could not be suggested that the evidence about the three incidents had been deployed to bolster an otherwise weak case. In any event, there had been powerful evidence against the defendant which meant that the verdict of the jury was entirely safe (see [38], [40], [42]-[44] of the judgment).

The judge had not erred in his approach to the admissibility and admission of the three convictions and their circumstances. The appeal against conviction failed (see [45] of the judgment). 

Reproduced with kind permission of LexisLibrary.