R v K [2015] All ER (D) 190 (Feb)

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The Court of Appeal, Civil Division, allowed a defendant's appeal against conviction, in circumstances where the judge had erred in his direction to the jury in respect of the bad character evidence.

Facts

The defendant appeared before the Crown Court charged with two counts of robbery and one count of taking a motor vehicle without consent.

A transcript of the defendant's police interview was read out in court. The prosecution had agreed that the transcript would be edited to remove potentially prejudicial material, namely, an admission that he had 'done robberies before' (the prejudicial material). That was not done. When the error was realised the prejudicial material had not been read out but the recorder proceeded on the basis that some of the jury might have read slightly ahead and seen it. The recorder rejected an application to discharge the jury. He considered that he could continue without prejudice to the defendant, with a clear warning in his summing up.

The prejudicial material was subsequently read out to the jury. It was agreed that evidence would be put before the jury of the defendant's previous conviction for robbery, with reference to the circumstances of that offence, which were said to have been different.

The defendant was convicted of robbery. He appealed against sentence. The principal issue was whether the judge had erred in his direction to the jury in respect of the bad character evidence.

Judgement

In the circumstances, it had been important to give a clear and strong direction in order to negate any prejudicial effect. The direction had been given in a somewhat rambling and unfocussed manner. Among other things, the recorder had not clearly identified the previous conviction and its circumstances and had qualified the direction given to the jury to ignore the prejudicial material. Further, the evidence had not been so strong that the defects in the direction could be ignored.

The appeal would be allowed. The conviction would be quashed.

Case Summary reproduced with the kind permission of LexisNexis.