West Law Report

Admission of relevant bad character evidence

From The TimesMay 16, 2008

Admission of relevant bad character evidence
Court of Appeal, Criminal Division

Published May 16, 2008

Regina v Nguyen

Before Lord Justice Dyson, Mr Justice Maddison and Sir Richard Curtis

Judgment March 18, 2008

Where the Crown chose to rely on relevant bad character evidence which it had decided not to make the subject of a criminal charge, that could not have such an adverse effect on the fairness of the proceedings that the court ought not to admit such evidence.

The Court of Appeal, Criminal Division, so held in a reserved judgment when dismissing an appeal by Thu Van Nguyen against his conviction on October 2, 2006 in the Central Criminal Court, before Judge Goddard, QC, and a jury, of murder.

Mr Edward Rees, QC, assigned by the Registrar of Criminal Appeals, for the defendant; Mr Simon Denison for the Crown.

LORD JUSTICE DYSON said that on two separate occasions in December 2005 the defendant had been involved in incidents of “glassing”. On the second occasion the victim had died the next day.

The Crown was granted leave to adduce evidence of the first incident as evidence of bad character under section 101(1)(d) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 on the basis that it was relevant to an important matter in issue between the defendant and the prosecution, namely, the question whether the defendant had a propensity to commit offences of the kind with which he was charged: see section103(1)(a). The defendant was convicted.

On appeal, it was submitted that that ruling was wrong because the Crown had made an informed and deliberate decision not to charge the defendant with the earlier assaults, but rather to rely on them as evidence of bad character in support of the alleged murder. It was argued that there had to be some limit to the Crown’s ability to introduce evidence of serious, untried offences as evidence of bad character under section 101(1)(d) and that the admission of the previous assaults was unfair.

Their Lordships did not accept that the mere fact that the Crown chose to rely on relevant bad character evidence which it had decided not to make the subject of a criminal charge could, of itself, have such an adverse effect on the fairness of the proceedings that the court ought not to admit it.

The premise on which the appeal was based was wrong; accordingly, the appeal would be dismissed.

Solicitors: Crown Prosecution Service, Old Bailey Trials Unit.

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