Practice and Procedure


PUBLISHED January 15, 2003

A trial judge's failure to give directions on the relevance of a co-accused's guilty plea did not render an appellant's conviction unsafe.Defendant's ('S') appeal against conviction. On 9 May 2002 at Isleworth Crown Court, following trial before HH Judge Kenny, S was convicted of being knowingly concerned in the fraudulent evasion of the prohibition on the importation of a controlled drug. S was subsequently sentenced to two years detention in a young offender institution by Recorder Pearce Wheatley on 14 June 2002. On 26 December 2001 S and her co-accused, C and M, were stopped at Heathrow Airport on arrival from Jamaica. S and C had three suitcases between them. Two cases contained large amounts of cannabis which were held by C. The third case, held by S, contained no drugs. The prosecution's case was that S knew that C and M were smuggling drugs and had knowingly assisted them. S gave evidence that: (i) C had offered her a free trip to Jamaica; (ii) while she was there her suitcase had disappeared and M had given her another one; and (iii) she had been offered ?2,500 to help C smuggle drugs into the UK which she had refused. S further stated that she did not know that there were drugs in the suitcases. S was jointly indicted with C although M absconded whilst on bail. On the first day of the trial C pleaded guilty. C's guilty plea was adduced before the jury with S's consent. S appealed against conviction on the grounds that: (a) the conviction was unsafe because the judge had failed to give the jury any direction on the relevance of C's guilty plea; and (b) in the absence of a direction there was a real danger that the jury would find S guilty because C had pleaded guilty.HELD: (1) There was no doubt that the interests of justice did not require a direction on the relevance of C's guilty plea in this case. The cases of R v Kempster (1990) CAR 14 and R v Skinner & Ors (1995) Crim LR 805, relied on by the defence, could not be read as giving an indication that in every case where a co-accused pleads guilty the trial judge should give a direction on the relevance of that plea. (2) There would undoubtedly be many cases where a direction was required, but equally many, like the present case, where directions would add nothing to the approach the jury should adopt. (3) S had wanted the jury to know about C's guilty plea to help her own defence. Nothing was said at trial to mislead the jury into thinking that because C pleaded guilty S was therefore also guilty.Judgment accordingly. Appeal refused.

[2003[ EWCA Crim 285