Law Report: Law report gave wrong impression: Regina v Marylebone Magistrates' Court, Ex parte Joseph - Queen's Bench Divisional Court (Lord Justice Rose and Mr Justice Waller), 3 March 1993

A magistrate who read a law report cutting during a defendant's evidence in chief would give the impression to a reasonable and fair minded person sitting in court that the magistrate's attention to the defendant's evidence was divided and incomplete and must have given the impression of unfairness.

The Divisional Court quashed the applicant's conviction of being drunk and disorderly and assaulting a police officer in the exercise of his duty.

The applicant complained that Sir Bryan Roberts, QC, a metropolitan stipendiary magistrate, perused a diary to check the day of the offence when a police officer was being cross- examined. During the applicant's examination in chief, the magistrate looked at a law report cutting to see if it could be relevant. The solicitor representing the applicant stopped the examination in chief and the magistrate continued for a further half minute reading the report.

The clerk told the magistrate that the solicitor feared evidence might have been missed and an exchange followed between the magistrate and solicitor as to whether relevant evidence might have been missed.

G E Heimler (Hudson Freeman Berg) for the applicant; N S Garnham (Treasury Solicitor) for the magistrate.

LORD JUSTICE ROSE said that the correct test was 'whether there is the appearance of bias, rather than whether there is actual bias'. Would a reasonable and fair-minded person sitting in court and knowing all the relevant facts have reasonable suspicion that a fair trial for the applicant was not possible.

It was a judicial duty to give the case an undivided attention.

There was nothing inherently objectionable in a magistrate looking briefly at his diary to check evidence given as to dates, but a lengthy perusal of a diary during the giving of evidence, or perusal of a diary when evidence was being given not about dates but about other matters might well give rise to a different conclusion. The perusal of the diary in the present case was not so inappropriate as to give rise to a reasonable suspicion of inattention in the mind of the reasonable observer.

But the cutting seemed to be in a different category. The effect of the perusal of the cutting had to be assessed in the context of the earlier diary perusal. When evidence was being given, particularly by a defendant in chief, it was not likely to be appropriate for a magistrate to study a law report without halting proceedings.

The inescapable conclusion seemed to be that the reasonable and fair minded person knowing all the relevant facts, would rightly entertain a reasonable suspicion that the magistrate's attention had been divided and incomplete. That would be so whether or not the magistrate himself believed he had been properly attending to the evidence.

Mr Justice Waller concurred.

Ying Hui Tan, Barrister

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk