Practice and Procedure

R v AURELIO POP (2003)

PUBLISHED May 27, 2003

In reaching its conclusion the Court of Appeal had not taken into account the problems caused by the failure of the police to hold an identification parade or to give a direction about the inconsistencies in the evidence of the chief witness.Appeal by the appellant ('P') by special leave of the board, from the decision of the Court of Appeal of Belize dismissing his appeal against a decision of the Supreme Court of Belize convicting him of murder. The victim ('G') was shot by a gunman from a distance of 18-20 feet. A witness ('W') gave a statement that he identified the gunman as the appellant and had called him 'R'. P denied that he was in the vicinity at the time of the shooting. The only issue at trial was whether P had shot the deceased. P was not interviewed by the police until five months later. When P was arrested and taken into custody the police did not hold an identification parade. The failure to hold a parade was contrary to practice in Belize and needed directions from the judge. W's statement and his examination in chief differed in certain respects. Of particular importance was that W started calling the appellant P, rather than R. The evidence identifying P as the gunman emerged as a result of a leading question by the Crown. At trial the judge did not warn the jury of the dangers of identification without a parade and gave no direction about the inconsistency of W's evidence. As the entire case turned on the question of identification. It was of the utmost importance that the jury should receive proper directions on how to approach the evidence of W identifying P as the person who shot the deceased. (R v Turnbull (1977) 3 All ER 349 224. The Court of Appeal held that although no Turnbull warning had been given this was an exceptional case. The recognition was by an eye-witness who had known P for years. The distance between W and P was not great and W testified that he had recognised P with the aid of two bright street lamps and had an unobstructed view of P.HELD :(1) Given the nature of the omissions from the standard directions, the judge's failure had to be regarded as significant, even though he had drawn attention to the possibility of mistakes being made and emphasised that the jury had to be absolutely sure that there was no mistake. (2) There was nothing in the circumstances of the identification evidence that marked it as particularly good quality. (3) At the time of the shooting it was dark and the scene was lit by street lighting. The identification of P came from a single eyewitness, the reliability of whose account was plainly open to challenge, given the divergence between his statement to the police and his evidence in court. (4) There was no scientific or other material evidence to corroborate his identification of P. No identification parade had been held to provide the usual safeguard for a defendant in P's position. The dock identification had been compromised by the improper leading question by the Crown. The judge had given the jury no direction on this important point. (5) P's conviction had to be quashed.Appeal allowed..

[2003] UKPC 40