Law Report: Evidence of cash in drugs case can be admissible: Regina v Morris - Court of Appeal (Criminal Division)(Lord Justice Rose, Mr Justice Morland and Mrs Justice Steel), 14 October 1994.

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Evidence of large amounts of money in the possession of a defendant charged with possession of drugs with intent to supply is admissible if it has probative value to an issue in the case. The trial judge must spell out its probative significance and warn the jury that a conclusion that the defendant was a drug dealer was not of itself either evidence of possession of drugs on a particular occasion or a basis for disbelieving a defendant.

The Court of Appeal allowed an appeal by Diane Morris against her conviction for possession of a class A drug with intent to supply.

The appellant was arrested at her parents' address, allegedly holding a number of bags, including her handbag with pounds 102 cash, pounds 999.17 in a purse and a white carrier bag containing pounds 5,000 cash.

She was said to have run into the house and was arrested in an upstairs lavatory; 17.74 grammes of heroin in individual wraps were found inside her bra. Cash and a red notebook with names and figures were seized at her home address.

The appellant claimed that the police had fabricated the evidence of the white carrier and heroin, and that the monies and notebook were related to dealing in jewellery and stolen clothes.

The appellant appealed against her conviction on the grounds that the trial judge, in his summing up, did not spell out the inferences to be drawn and probative significance, if any, from the evidence of the money and notebook, and the evidence was solely prejudicial.

Simon Pentol (Registrar of Criminal Appeal) for the appellant; M J S Mowat (CPS) for the Crown.

MR JUSTICE MORLAND, giving the court's judgment, said that the judge's failure to spell out the probative significance of the evidence might well have led the jury to adopting the dangerous approach 'we conclude that the appellant was a drug dealer and therefore we believe the police when they said they found the heroin secreted in her bra'. Such an approach rendered the verdict unsafe and unsatisfactory. Merely because evidence of possession of money might tend to show the commission of offences other than that charged would not of itself render the evidence inadmissible in law.

Evidence of large amounts of money in the possession of a defendant or an extravagant life style, prima facie explicable only if derived from drug dealing, was admissible in cases of possession of drugs with intent to supply if it was of probative significant to an issue in the case. The fact that a defendant gave an explanation for possession of large sums of money did not of itself render such evidence inadmissible. The Crown might be able to rebut such an explanation.

If the Crown could establish that explanations were false, the false explanation might be of probative significance, if a defendant was in control of a house, car or bag in which drugs were found, to prove that the defendant was knowingly in possession of the drugs and had the drugs in his possession for supply.

If a judge decided that such evidence was admissible in law, he must decide whether or not to admit it in his discretion, having regard to its probative value and its prejudicial effect. If such evidence was admitted, it was incumbent on the judge to spell out to the jury what its probative significance could be while making it clear to jurors that it was for them to decide whether it had or had not that probative significance.

The judge must then warn jurors that, if they reached the conclusion that the defendant was a drug dealer, that was not of itself either evidence of possession of drugs on a particular occasion or a basis for disbelieving a defendant. Because of the judge's failure to give proper directions about the red notebook and money, the conviction was unsafe and unsatisfactory and was quashed.

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