Friday, August 17, 2007

Bad Character

It is becoming increasingly common to see applications to admit a defendant's bad character, in particular where his record suggests a propensity to commit offences similar to the one before the court. I have seen a couple of these recently, and in both cases the defendant had nearly 200 previous convictions, so it is hardly surprising that the CPS wanted them in.
The Crown has to make an application to adduce bad character, and that is often done at a preliminary hearing. This is not always the case though, and the law provides that a bench may hear the application, decide not to allow it, and then proceed to trial having read through the defendant's previous convictions, which we are then expected to put out of our minds. Well, we do our best, but it is a challenging feat of mental gymnastics. If little Billy has nine previous convictions for driving while disqualified, but is fighting this one because he claims only to have been a passenger, one does tend to draw certain conclusions - which is what Parliament intended, of course.

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