Where a defendant sought to rely on s.139(4) Criminal Justice Act 1988 as a defence to a charge of having a knife with him in a public place, the fact finding tribunal should be left free to consider whether in the circumstances the defendant had shown on the balance of probabilities, that he had a good reason for having the article with him in a public place. If forgetfulness was relied upon, it did need to be said that alone it could not constitute a good reason, but otherwise no legal direction was required.Appeal against conviction. The appellant ('J') was convicted of having with him in a public place without good reason an article with a blade or point, a knife, contrary to s.139(1) Criminal Justice Act 1988. The ground of appeal was that the trial judge misdirected the jury as to the law of "knowingly has with him" and the burden and standard of proof of the same, as a result of which the conviction was unsafe. J was stopped by the police in his brother's girlfriend's car because he was speeding. Scissors and a kitchen knife were found in the car. J admitted possessing the scissors, but said he did not know the knife was there. His explanation was that the car key had been lost the previous week and that both the knife and scissors had been used to turn the ignition on and off. However, the knife had been lost so he was using the scissors. The brother and his girlfriend had driven the car over the week.HELD: (1) There were two issues for the jury to consider and in relation to which clear directions were required: (i) whether J was in possession of the knife when stopped by the police and whether he had it with him in that public place; (ii) if so, had he, on the balance of probabilities, demonstrated that he had a good reason for having the knife with him at that time and in that place. (2) The court considered R v McCalla (1988) 87 CAR 372; R v Buswell (1972) 1 WLR 64; R v Martindale (1986) 84 CAR 31. In all three cases, the offending article was under the control of the defendant when it was placed where it was later found. There was no such clarity in the present case. (3) The judge should have directed the jury only to find possession proved if satisfied that the appellant either: (a) was aware of the presence of the knife in the vehicle when making the journey during the course of which he was stopped, which might well account for what the police officers said they saw of his apparent attempt to hide something; or (b) was responsible for putting the knife where it was mislaid. (4) R v Manning (1998) CAR 198 was authority for the proposition that the words "good reason" in s.139(4) of the 1988 Act did not require any judicial gloss. Forgetfulness alone would not amount to a good reason, but forgetfulness combined with another reason might afford a good reason. Once the facts were known the tribunal of fact could safely be left to decide for itself whether the statutory defence, which was formulated in simple words, had been made out. Accordingly, where a defendant sought to rely on s.139(4) of the Act, the fact finding tribunal should be left free to consider whether in the circumstances the defendant had shown on the balance of probabilities, that he had a good reason for having the article with him in a public place. If forgetfulness was relied upon, it did need to be said that alone it could not constitute a good reason, but otherwise no legal direction was required. (5) In the summing up the legal issues were not clarified in that way. The direction as to the law was muddled, and at times wrong. As the jury did not have the assistance it plainly required, the court was unable to regard the conviction as safe.Appeal allowed.

[2003] EWCA Crim 1543

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