Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Bad Character

The more observant among you will have noticed that a current high-profile murder trial at the Old Bailey has seen a defendant's previous convictions brought before the jury. This is one of the first appearances in a newsworthy trial of the new law allowing bad character to be adduced. The Judge will have had to give his permission, and he is hedged around by directions that he will have to give the jury before they retire, but the cat is out of the bag.

From what I read about the case in the paper this morning the bad character seems highly relevant, and the jury will find that it steers them in a certain direction. Two points though: firstly, in a case as strong as this one appears to be the bad character may not be necessary to obtain a conviction, and secondly, at magistrates' court level it is the magistrates who hear the bad character application and decide whether to allow it in. If they say no, the trial goes ahead anyway, so they have heard the bad character, but will 'put it out of their minds'.

It hasn't happened to me yet, but I am sure that my colleagues who do get to decide one will do their best.

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