Law Report: CPS should have records of police misconduct

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Regina v Guney; Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) (Lord Justice Judge, Mr Justice Poole, Judge Rant QC, Judge Advocate General) 27 February 1998

RECORDS available to the Crown Prosecution Service should include not only information about convictions of and disciplinary proceedings against police officers, but also transcripts of appeals which had succeeded on the basis of police officers' misconduct or untruthfulness, and of cases which had been dropped on the same basis, to enable disclosure to the defence in appropriate cases.

Evidence of possession of cash should not, as a matter of law, be automatically excluded in cases of simple possession of drugs.

The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal of Erkin Guney against his conviction of possessing a Class A controlled drug with intent to supply, and of possessing a firearm and ammunition without a firearms certificate.

The appellant's home had been searched pursuant to a warrant by six police officers, three of whom had formerly been members of the notorious Drugs Squad based at Stoke Newington. As a result of the search pounds 25,000 in cash, a handgun and live ammunition, and heroin with a street value of about pounds 750,000, were found in a wardrobe. He appealed against his conviction on the grounds that the Crown had failed to disclose relevant material, and that evidence about the finding of the cash should have been excluded.

Edmund Lawson QC (who did not appear at trial) and Paul Kelleher (Kaim Todner) for the appellant; David Jeremy (Crown Prosecution Service) for the Crown.

Lord Justice Judge said that during the trial, largely in the form of questions from defence counsel, the jury had heard evidence about the Operation Jackpot enquiry into the activities of the Stoke Newington Drugs Squad, but it had not included any individual information about the three officers who had been involved in the search of the appellant's home.

The Crown had taken the stance that nothing material which required disclosure under the rules then in force had arisen from that enquiry, nor from a number of prosecutions in which one or other of the three officers had been involved and which had been dropped or had resulted in acquittal, or where a conviction had been set aside on appeal. No criminal or disciplinary proceedings had been taken against the three officers.

It had been rightly argued on the appeal that the defence was entitled to be informed of any convictions and disciplinary findings against any police officers in the case. However, in addition to convictions and disciplinary findings, the records available to the Crown Prosecution Service should include transcripts of any decisions of the Court of Appeal in which convictions had been quashed on the express basis of misconduct or lack of veracity of identified police officers, as well as of cases which had been stopped by the trial judge or had been discontinued on the same basis.

Although the cases in which two of the three officers had been involved should have been disclosed, the jury had been informed about Operation Jackpot. A Snaresbrook jury hardly needed any such reminder and would have been fully alert to the implications. The safety of the conviction was not undermined.

At the trial it had been accepted that if it was proved that the appellant had been in possession of the heroin found in his bedroom, the jury could infer that he had intended to supply it. The real issue was not intent but possession. From that it had been submitted, relying on R v Halpin [1996] Crim L R 112, that as a matter of principle evidence about the finding of the pounds 25,000 cash in the wardrobe was inadmissible.

Evidence of possession of cash would often lack any probative value. Nevertheless the relevance of any particular piece of evidence should be decided on a case-by-case basis, and accordingly the court was unable to accept that, as a matter of law, such evidence must automatically be excluded as irrelevant. In the present case, the evidence had been relevant.