Practice and Procedure

R v ADRIAN REED (2003)

PUBLISHED October 21, 2003

The defendant's right under Art.6 European Convention on Human Rights had not been infringed by police failure to maintain records of any threats, offers of immunity from prosecution and other inducements that were or might have been offered to key prosecution witnesses, all of whom were either accomplices or lesser participants tainted by the offences.Appeal by the defendant ('R') against his conviction for conspiracy to supply controlled drugs and application for leave to appeal against his sentence of 11 years' imprisonment. The conviction was for a number of conspiracies continuing over a period of almost a year and R was sentenced to seven years in respect of two counts of conspiracy to supply controlled drugs and an additional four years in respect of a further three counts relating to offences committed after his arrest for the initial offences. Several of R's co-defendants pleaded guilty and received significantly shorter sentences. Three of them also gave evidence for the Crown against R. Other witnesses made statements implicating R but were not prosecuted. R contended that there had been an infringement of his right to a fair trial under Art.6 of the European Convention on Human Rights ('the Convention') because (i) although the critical evidence against him at trial came from witnesses who were either co-defendants or accomplices or otherwise vulnerable to police threats and inducements, the police lacked proper and transparent procedures to regulate the manner in which they dealt with those witnesses; (ii) no record was maintained of what was said to those witnesses before they decided to make statements against R; (iii) the lack of rules for regulating the procedure for approaching the witnesses rendered the trial as not "in accordance with law" for the purposes of Art.6(2); and (iv) in the absence of any record of discussion between the police and the witnesses R had been (a) prejudiced in that he had been deprived of information about the nature and cause of the accusations against him and (b) forestalled the ability to examine witnesses in the preparation of his defence in breach of Art.6(3). Two police officers, and the other witnesses, were cross-examined over the obtaining of prosecution evidence. All available records relating to the obtaining of evidence were disclosed by the Crown, but they contained no proper record of preliminary conversations with the witnesses. Appropriate directions were given to the jury by the judge, concerning the evidence of co-defendants and of witnesses who stood to gain an advantage by testifying against R.HELD: (1) R had had a fair trial and his convictions were safe. There had been no overall unfairness in the trial proceedings and the judge had not erred in allowing the trial to proceed and in admitting, whilst keeping under review, the evidence of the witnesses concerned. (2) Whilst there were no complete records relating to the obtaining of the evidence of many of the witnesses, such disclosure as there had been, coupled with the detailed cross-examination of the witnesses, must have given the jury a good insight into the importance or otherwise of the defence submissions that the witnesses' evidence was influenced and tainted by fear or inducements. (3) The evidence in question had been obtained in accordance with established principles of domestic law. Article 6 did not impose rules of evidence on domestic courts, which was a matter for domestic law, and there was nothing in the European jurisprudence that suggested a different conclusion. Whilst the use of accomplice evidence obtained by the grant of immunity might put in question the fairness of a trial, in R's case that possibility was circumscribed by the rules and procedures of domestic law. Accomplice evidence was admissible under English legal principles, subject to statutory and procedural safeguards. It was also an accepted principle that a discounted sentence would, in the judge's discretion, normally be given to those giving "Queen's evidence". The jury had been directed, and repeatedly reminded, by the judge to treat the evidence with caution and to look for support where a witness stood to gain advantage and the jury were not sure of the truth of the evidence. There had been ample corroboration, both by other witness accounts and independent evidence. (4) The sentence had not been excessive, considering the seriousness and circumstances of the offences, R's previous convictions and the applicable sentencing guidelines.Appeal and application dismissed.

[2003] EWCA Crim 2667