Practice and Procedure


PUBLISHED April 9, 2003

Where inadmissible evidence was adduced at a trial it was a matter for the judge's discretion whether to discharge the jury. The conviction was safe as the inadmissible evidence was peripheral and had caused no prejudice to the defendant.Appeal against conviction with leave of the single judge. On 18 March 2002 at Snaresbrook Crown Court, before HH Judge Richardson, the defendant ('G') was convicted of conspiracy to supply class A drugs, namely cocaine, contrary to s.1(1) Criminal Justice Act 1977. G pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled drug and was sentenced to 14 years' imprisonment. Two co-accused ('A' and 'B') pleaded guilty and two ('C' and 'D') were found not guilty. Following surveillance, police forced entry to a flat where A and B were present and they were arrested. Police officers discovered the kitchen was used to process crack cocaine. Pellets of cocaine, a bucket, rubber gloves, scales, dealer lists, courier kits and copies of money transfers were found. C turned up at the flat and was also arrested. G was arrested sometime later and was found to have in his possession 55.43 grammes of cocaine. The prosecution's case was that between 1 April 2001 and 17 June 2001 G and the co-accused conspired with Roger Smith ('RS') and other people to supply a controlled drug. There was an organised and steady supply of cocaine from Jamaica via couriers who brought the drug in by swallowing pellets or carrying it in solution in bottles. Once imported, the cocaine was processed into crack cocaine. The conspiracy included the transmission of cash from the UK to persons in Jamaica. B had swallowed 72 pellets of cocaine and had passed the pellets at the flat. There was evidence that G had made phone calls to Jamaica and had transferred money. It was G's case that he had stayed in the flat about four or five times and A had stayed there since April. He had not seen any evidence of drug dealing and A had never mentioned drugs even though she knew he had a drug habit. He had made phone calls to Jamaica to talk to his sister and had transferred money to her. He stayed the night at the flat (the day before the search) and had gone into the kitchen but had not seen any evidence of drug processing. He left the flat at midday the following day and returned about thirty minutes later and found the kitchen was being used for drug processing. He was very upset and argued with A. To placate him A broke off a piece of crack cocaine from a block. G left and told A that when he returned there had to be nothing left in the kitchen. The large piece of crack cocaine was the piece found by the police when he was arrested. The prosecution made an application to name RS as a co-conspirator as they were unable to apply to read his witness statement as he would not sign a statement that he could not appear as he was in fear. The application was granted. At trial the exhibits officer was called to produce exhibits removed from the flat. Those exhibits included a small box for electronic scales. When he gave evidence the officer stated the box had "Spragga" written on it. He then stated that that was G's street name. An application was made by G for the jury to be discharged as the evidence should never have been adduced and, as it had been, G could not get a fair trial. The judge declined the application. G appealed on the grounds that: (i) the jury should have been discharged and; (ii) in the absence of RS being called as a witness it was impossible for G to place a complete and accurate picture before the jury.HELD: (1) The decision whether to discharge the jury was a matter of discretion for the trial judge. The evidence relating to "Spragga" was wholly inadmissible and should not have been led by the prosecution. The question for this court was whether adducing the evidence was so serious that the judge had no option but to discharge the jury. (2) Whilst the evidence should never have been given it was not referred to again during the course of the trial. The fact G had a street name was not prejudicial because he was an addict. The key question for the jury was whether A was conducting the drug production behind G's back and whether B could really pass 72 pellets of cocaine from her body without G noticing. "Spragga" was of peripheral importance and whilst it was unfortunate the evidence was given it had not provided justification for the jury to be discharged and did not render the conviction unsafe. (3) The witness statement of RS provided details of his involvement in the drug conspiracy and implicated C. He did not implicate G but simply confirmed that they had met. It was unclear how calling RS would have been of any assistance to G. The issue was whether G was involved in the conspiracy. There was nothing in RS's evidence to link him with G but that did not mean the evidence was inadmissible. (4) There had been no error in admitting the evidence of RS, as it was plainly relevant in the case against C. The fact that she was acquitted was irrelevant. The evidence was relevant and admissible and there was no basis to say it caused prejudice or unfairness to G.Appeal dismissed.