Practice and Procedure

R v C : R v B (2003)

PUBLISHED March 4, 2003

Where the only evidence in a case was the recognition of the defendants it would not make the conviction unsafe where the recognition was based on hearsay if repeated many times.Appeal against conviction and sentence with leave of the single judge. On 30 August 2002 at Peterborough Crown Court the defendants ('C' and 'B') were convicted of robbery. On 23 September 2002 C was sentenced to three years', and B to 30 months', imprisonment in Young Offender's Institutions. On 5 November 2001 at 9.30 pm the victim ('V') had been going to the off licence. Outside were a group of youths who made hostile comments. V was upset and went straight home using a different route. As she walked she heard people close behind her. She turned and saw three girls and two boys. She knew one of the boys and recognised two of the girls, C and B. V was set upon by the gang, bitten, had her hair pulled and robbed of her handbag. The police arrested C and B, no identity parade was requested by B and C was offered but refused an identity parade. The prosecution's case rested solely on the evidence of V that in the time before and during the attack she recognised C and B as two girls who had gone to the same school as her. V was two years senior to C and B and never spoke to them but saw them frequently. In the 18 months since leaving school she had not come across them. C and B made a submission of no case to answer on the ground that the recognition was based on hearsay. V had no knowledge of either C or B's name. The case was not one of recognition but of identity and too tenuous to go before the jury. The submission of no case to answer was refused. C and B appealed conviction on the ground that the judge erred in refusing to rule there was no case to answer. They appealed sentence on the ground that they were manifestly excessive.HELD: (1) The time from the initial menacing approach to the attack lasted one minute. V gave an accurate description of C and B's clothing but said B was four inches shorter than she actually was. Those features were not enough to support a case on identification. (2) The contention that this was not a case of recognition as V only knew C and B's names from what others had told her lacked realism. During four years at school children got to know who fellow pupils were by various ways, sometimes being told names by others. What may have been hearsay to start with became unrefutable when repeated many times. R v Fergus 1992 1 CLR 363 could be distinguished as in that case the defendant was only seen once before the attack and the victim was told who he was by another. The judge was therefore correct to allow the case to proceed and the conviction was safe. (3) The sentence passed on B was not manifestly excessive. This was violent and unprovoked aggression which the courts had vowed to put a stop to. C's sentence would be quashed and a sentence of 30 months substituted purely by reason of what had happened since the offence, not before it. C had realised the consequences of her actions and had moved away to live with her mother. She had shown remorse and had made an effort to distance herself from the offence.Appeal against conviction dismissed. Appeal against sentence allowed for C and dismissed for B.