Practice and Procedure

R v MARK BOWN (2003)

PUBLISHED June 23, 2003

Where a defence of "good reason" was raised under s.139(4) Criminal Justice Act 1988 to a charge of possession of a bladed article in a public place, the burden of proof rested on a defendant to show "good reason" and in the absence of any evidence, the judge was right to withdraw the matter from the jury and direct them to find the defendant guilty.Appeal, with leave of the single judge, against conviction for being in possession of an article with a blade or point contrary to s.139(1)Criminal Justice Act 1988. On 18 April 2002 at Bournemouth Crown Court Mr Recorder Wilson-Smith QC directed the jury to find the defendant ('B') guilty. On 7 May 2002 B was conditionally discharged for a period of 12 months. On 19 September 2001 B was stopped and searched by police who found a lock knife in his trouser pocket. In interview B stated that he was depressed and he had the knife with him to harm himself. B accepted that the knife was found on him in a public place and was prohibited. There was no dispute that B had a history of self-harm. It was the defence's case that B had a propensity to self-harm on a regular basis and carrying the knife for this purpose constituted a "good reason" for the purpose of s.139(4) of the Act. The Crown contended it was not a good reason. At trial B gave no evidence and no witnesses were called for the defence. The defence submitted whether B had good reason was a question for the jury which required no intervention from the judge. The judge took a different approach and held that the court had a duty to determine whether the reason advanced was capable in law of amounting to "good reason". He withdrew the defence and directed the jury to find B guilty. B appealed conviction on the ground that it was for the jury to decide if B had good reason. Any reason should go before the jury, self-harm was a non-criminal activity and in the circumstances amounted to a good reason. The Crown agreed that the judge was wrong to decide if the reason amounted to a good reason but contended that there was no evidence capable of establishing a good reason.HELD: (1) It was important to distinguish between whether a reason was a good reason, which was a matter for the jury, and whether the matter was capable of amounting to a good reason in law. There were some limits as to what amounted to good reason as seen in DPP v Gregson (1993) 96 CAR 240, where it was held that forgetfulness may be a good explanation but could not amount to a good reason in law. (2) Two principles should be remembered namely: (a) where ordinary English words are used in a statute a judge should be slow to rule that the facts could not fall within good reason. A judge should be reluctant to impose his own view or gloss on the words other than in clear circumstances; (b) under s.139(4) of the Act good reason had to be shown not only for having the bladed article, but also why he had it in a public place. (3) Often highly relevant whether there was good reason was whether or not there was evidence of when or where a defendant intended to use the knife for the stated purpose. In the present case B gave no detail in interview when or where he would use the knife. It would not be a good reason to have the knife if he wanted to harm himself the following day, see Mohammed v Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police (2002) 2 All ER 374. (4) The burden of proof rested on B to show good reason and in the absence of any evidence from B, no jury could determine when or where he would use the knife and in those circumstances the judge was right to withdraw the issue from the jury.Appeal dismissed

[2003] EWCA Crim 1989