Law Report: Regina v Rafique and others - Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) (Lord Taylor of Gosforth, Lord Chief Justice, Mr Justice Pill and Mr Justice Sedley), 7 April 1993

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Acts committed after an alleged offence but before any police investigations into the offence have started are capable of tending to pervert the course of public justice if they were intended to pervert the course of justice in relation to the offence.

The Court of Appeal dismissed appeals by Mohammed Zubair Ahmed Rafique, Mohammed Sajid and Nasir Aslam Rajah from convictions before Judge Smedley QC and a jury of doing acts tending and intending to pervert the course of public justice. Each was conditionally discharged for three years.

The three appellants, the deceased and another man went to a park to test a double barrelled shotgun which the deceased had recently acquired. The deceased was passing the gun through railings to one of the appellants, when the gun discharged and the deceased was struck in the chest and died within minutes. The appellants left the scene in panic.

They then threw away a live cartridge and threw the gun into bushes near a small lake. They lay low for 12 days and, having consulted solicitors, gave themselves up to the police. Unknown to them the gun had been recovered by the police. They gave evidence at their trial that they had given no thought to a police investigation when they acted. The jury was directed that an intention to impede imminent or actual police investigations was an offence.

The appellants appealed against conviction on the grounds that the acts of throwing away the shotgun and cartridges, in close proximity to the commission of an alleged offence, before any investigation had begun did not render the appellants liable to conviction for an offence of perverting the course of public justice and that the judge misdirected the jury in equating police investigations with the course of justice.

John Perry QC and Edmond Alexander (Registrar of Criminal Appeals) for the appellants; Warwick McKinnon (CPS) for the Crown.

LORD TAYLOR CJ, giving the court's judgment, said that in R v Vreones (1891) 1 QB 360, Baron Pollock stated at p 369: 'The real offence here is the doing of some act which has a tendency and is intended to pervert the administration of public justice'. The acts complained of in the present case were committed after the act alleged to constitute the offence of manslaughter. There was an interval of time between that act and the acts alleged to have a tendency to pervert the course of justice.

Applying the principle stated by Baron Pollock, an act was not beyond the ambit of those tending to pervert the course of justice by reason of its being performed after the alleged crime but before investigations into the crime had begun. Whether an act had a tendency to pervert the course of justice could not depend on whether investigation of the matter which might become the subject of court proceedings had begun.

If an intention to pervert the course of justice in relation to that matter was proved, the act had the same quality whether performed before that alleged offence was investigated or even discovered as it would have at a later stage.

It was open to the jury in the present case to conclude that the possibility of judicial proceedings must have been in the contemplation of the appellants. An act had occurred which was likely to lead to a specific charge in judicial proceedings. At the very least there was bound to be an inquest. The disposal of the shotgun and cartridges had a tendency to pervert the course of justice.

The judge's direction should express the intention as being the intention expressed in the charge, namely the intention to pervert the course of public justice. However in the present case, it must follow from a finding that there was an intention to impede police investigations that there was an intention to pervert the course of public justice.

The jury clearly rejected the appellants' explanations as to why they disposed of the shotgun and cartridges, adn concluded that the appellants intended to impede police investigation. In those circumstances there was no material direction.

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