Girls' similar evidence could corroborate

LAW REPORT: 26 May 1995

Regina v H (evidence: corroboration). House of Lords (Lord Mackay of Clashfern, Lord Chancellor, Lord Griffiths, Lord Mustill, Lord Lloyd of Berwick and Lord Nicholls).

24 May, 1995.

In a "similar fact" case involving alleged sexual offences against more than one complainant, each giving evidence with similarities, the risk that the evidence was contaminated by collusion did not, save in exceptional cases, render the evidence inadmissible, and it was for the jury, having assessed the quality of the evidence, to decide whether the similar fact evidence of one complainant corroborated the evidence of another.

The House of Lords unanimously dismissed an appeal by the defendant and affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeal, Criminal Division ([1994] 2 All ER 881; [1994] 1 WLR 809), upholding the defendant's four convictions, before Mr Justice Tucker and a jury, for indecent assault, gross indecency and unlawful sexual intercourse.

The offences were alleged to have been committed between 1987 and 1989 against the defendant's adopted daughter and against his stepdaughter. The alleged victims did not confide in the defendant's wife until 1992. She then reported the matter to the police. There were similarities in the accounts given by the two victims. The defendant denied the charges, contending the two girls had concocted the story. Mr Justice Tucker directed the jury that if they were sure the girls had not collaborated to concoct a false story then the similar fact evidence of one girl provided support or corroboration for the evidence of the other.

Michael Beckman QC and Stanley Best (Starbuck & Mack) for the defendant; Neil Butterfield QC and Jeremy Gibbons (CPS HQ) for the Crown.

LORD MACKAY LC said that where there was an application to exclude evidence on the ground that it did not qualify as similar fact evidence and the submission raised a question of collusion the judge should approach the question of admissibility on the basis that the similar facts alleged were true and apply the test set out by their Lordships in DPP v P [1991] 3 All ER 337, [1991] 2 AC 447.

In that case, in which a father was charged with sexually abusing a young daughter, evidence that he had also similarly abused other young children of the family was held to be admissible if the similarity was sufficiently strong, or there was other sufficient relationship between the events described and the evidence of the other young children, and the abuse charged, that the evidence, if accepted, would so strongly support the truth of that charge that it was fair to admit it notwithstanding its prejudicial effect.

If a submission was made raising a question of collusion in such a way as to cause the judge difficulty in applying that test, he might be compelled to hold a voir dire. The situations in which collusion was relevant in the consideration of admissibility would arise only in a very exceptional case, but the present was not such a case.

If evidence of similar facts had been admitted and circumstances were adduced in the course of the trial which indicated that no reasonable jury could accept the evidence as free from collusion, the judge should direct the jury that it could not be relied upon as corroboration or indeed for any other purpose adverse to the defence. Where this was not so, but the question of collusion had been raised, the judge must clearly draw the importance of collusion to the attention of the jury and leave it to them to decide whether, notwithstanding such evidence of collusion as might have been put before them, they were satisfied that the evidence could be relied upon as free from collusion, and tell them that if they were not so satisfied they could not properly rely upon it as corroboration or for any other purpose adverse to the defence.

LORD GRIFFITHS, concurring, said the basic reason why criminal cases were heard by juries rather than by a judge alone was that our society preferred to trust the collective judgment of 12 men and women drawn from different backgrounds to decide the facts of cases rather than accept the view of a single professional judge.

It was the jury's function to decide whether a witness was to be believed. It was the duty of the judge to rule on the admissibility of evidence on the assumption that the prosecution statements would be accepted by the jury as truthful and accurate. If it was admitted, the jury then determined its credibility and that applied to similar fact evidence as it did to all other admissible evidence.

Paul Magrath, Barrister

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Bobbi Kristina Brown with her mother Whitney Houston in 2011
people
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
The guide, since withdrawn, used illustrations and text to help people understand the court process (Getty)
Ministry of Justice gets law 'terribly wrong' in its guide to courts
News
Starting the day with a three-egg omelette could make people more charitable, according to new research
scienceFeed someone a big omelette, and they may give twice as much, thanks to a compound in the eggs
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
newsPatrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
News
Robert Fraser, aka Groovy Bob
peopleA new show honours Robert Fraser, one of the era's forgotten players
Life and Style
Torsten Sherwood's Noook is a simple construction toy for creating mini-architecture
tech
News
Top Gun actor Val Kilmer lost his small claims court battle in Van Nuys with the landlord of his Malibu mansion to get back his deposit after wallpapering over the kitchen cabinets
people
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
News
i100
News
peopleHere's what Stephen Fry would say
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
Richard Dawkins is known for his outspoken views
people
Life and Style
L’Auberge du pont de Collonges (AFP)
food + drinkFury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Arts and Entertainment
Bourne's New Adventures dance company worked with 27 young Londoners to devise a curtain-raiser staged before New Adventures' performance of Edward Scissorhands
theatreStar choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells
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: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links