Practice and Procedure

R v SB (2003)

PUBLISHED October 2, 2003

Where evidence of recent complaint was adduced, the trial judge had to give directions on how a jury should deal with such evidence, failure to do so rendered the conviction unsafe.Appeal, with leave of the single judge, against conviction for indecent assault. The defendant ('B') was convicted on 31 July 2002 at Truro Crown Court and sentenced on 9 September 2002 to a total of 6 years' imprisonment. The three victims were B's step daughters. At trial the prosecution adduced evidence of recent complaint by the victims. When summing up the judge reminded the jury about the evidence of recent complaint but did not give directions on how to deal with such evidence. B appealed conviction on the ground that the judge's failure to give adequate directions rendered the conviction unsafe. The prosecution contended that the evidence was called to rebut any possible allegations of recent fabrication and was not evidence of recent complaint.HELD: (1) In R v Islam (1999) 1 Cr App R 22, Buxton LJ held that without directions there was a danger a jury would think evidence of recent complaint was further evidence of the truth of complaints. The contention that the evidence should be distinguished as evidence to rebut recent fabrication did not obviate the need for a clear direction. (2) The judge's omission to give a direction was fatal to the safety of the conviction and the conviction would therefore be quashed.Appeal allowed, retrial ordered.