Practice and Procedure


PUBLISHED October 16, 2003

Where a threat to kill was made to a victim by email and she printed that email, it could be adduced in evidence after she had given oral evidence without offending the rules of hearsay. The judge was right to refuse a submission of no case to answer and the conviction was safe.Appeal with leave of the single judge against conviction at Manchester Crown Court before HH Judge Ensor on 14 August 2003 for making a threat to kill. The defendant ('D') was sentenced to nine months' imprisonment. A not-guilty verdict was entered in relation to a charge of rape. The victim ('V') was D's wife. She made an allegation that he had raped her and the next day left the country. V did not report the rape until a week later. V and D got divorced on 21 July 2002. The proceedings were secular in nature and no allegation of rape was made. On 31 July 2002 V received an email message allegedly from D, giving his email address, a date and time with the figures +0300 after them. The message said: "Hi bitch, don't think you are safe in the UK I am going to kill you I will make sure I get my hands on you, your loving husband Riz." The Crown contended that that was a threat to kill which V took seriously. When D returned to the United Kingdom in September 2002 he was arrested. On the same date a hand written letter was posted to V, again making a threat. Shortly afterwards a fax message was received by the university that D attended stating that D was wanted on a charge of rape and was a danger to others. The fax said to contact Manchester police for details and gave the correct case reference number. At trial D submitted that there was no case to answer as there was insufficient evidence to go before the jury. He contended that: (i) the provenance of the email could not be certain as it was relatively easy to produce a document that had nothing to do with the email address; (ii) handwriting experts had stated it was highly unlikely to be D's handwriting on the other letter; and (iii) someone was sufficiently hostile to D to fax the university and that person could have sent the email. The judge rejected those contentions. D appealed against conviction on the ground that the judge should have ruled the email inadmissible. He contended that it was secondary evidence and without proving the audit trail it was not admissible as it was hearsay. Further, D submitted, in the circumstances the judge was wrong to reject the submission of no case to answer.HELD: (1) V was entitled to give evidence as to what she saw on her computer screen. No doubt she was able to give evidence of the message and the content of the message including the indication of where it came from and the email address. She was also entitled to say she pressed the print button, printed and produced the document. It might have been inadmissible without her oral evidence but once oral evidence had been given she was permitted to show the document. Whether the jury did or did not accept it as genuine was a matter manifestly for them. (2) Clearly there was evidence to go before the jury that V had received a message and the only issue was whether or not there was sufficient evidence on which a jury could conclude the message came from D. It was insufficient that the document purported to come from him because of the name and address. However, the jury had to look at that in the context of the whole evidence. Looking at the other documents the court could not possibly say there was no issue for the jury to decide and the judge was right to reject the submission of no case to answer.Appeal dismissed.

[2003] EWCA Crim 3067