Bad character evidence


Bad character evidence

The Criminal Justice Act 2003 of the United Kingdom made fundamental changes to the admissibility of evidence relating to character in respect to defendants and others. The Act is far reaching, particularly [http://www.statutelaw.gov.uk/content.aspx?LegType=All+Legislation&title=Criminal+Justice+Act+2003+&searchEnacted=0&extentMatchOnly=0&confersPower=0&blanketAmendment=0&sortAlpha=0&TYPE=QS&PageNumber=1&NavFrom=0&parentActiveTextDocId=902928&ActiveTextDocId=903058&filesize=3527 section 103] which provides for the admissibility of previous convictions in support of propensity to commit like offences and untruthfulness. Common law rules in relation to the admissibility of bad character evidence are abolished save for one exception ( [http://www.statutelaw.gov.uk/content.aspx?LegType=All+Legislation&title=Criminal+Justice+Act+2003+&searchEnacted=0&extentMatchOnly=0&confersPower=0&blanketAmendment=0&sortAlpha=0&TYPE=QS&PageNumber=1&NavFrom=0&parentActiveTextDocId=902928&ActiveTextDocId=903052&filesize=802 section 99(2)] ).

The legislation, draw heavily on [http://www.lawcom.gov.uk/docs/lc273sum(1).pdf Law Commission Paper No 273] which needs to be read in detail to understand fully the rationale behind the new rules. A copy of the paper is available online [http://www.lawcom.gov.uk/docs/lc273sum(1).pdf Here]

Definition

Bad character evidence is evidence of, or a disposition towards misconduct; other than evidence which has to do with the alleged facts of the offence with which the defendant is charged or is evidence of misconduct in connection with the investigation or prosecution of that offence. Misconduct is defined as ‘the commission of an offence or other reprehensible behaviour’ ( [http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts2003/30044--l.htm#112 section 112(1)] ).Bad character in relation to the alleged facts offence itself has always been admissible for obvious reasons. The Act provides for different rules in relation to the bad character of defendants, and that of non-defendants. In assessing the probative value of evidence it is assumed to be true, unless there is material to suggest the contrary ( [http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts2003/30044--l.htm#109 section 109] ).

Apart from evidence of previous convictions, other evidence, amounting to ‘reprehensible behaviour’ is admissible. The Government stated the following during debate::“Examples of where it might be appropriate to admit such evidence include circumstances where evidence on a number of charges being tried concurrently is cross-admissible in respect of the other charges.

:It might also be appropriate to admit evidence relating to charges on which the defendant was acquitted, as I have already cited in the example of [http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld199900/ldjudgmt/jd000622/z-1.htm R v Z] It would be unfortunate if an argument were to be accepted that, because a person has not actually been convicted of the offence, it cannot be said that the evidence shows that he has indeed committed such an offence and it is therefore excluded.” [ [http://www.wikicrimeline.co.uk/index.php?title=Criminal_Justice_Act_2003:_Part_11_Chapter_1 WikiCrimeLine Criminal Justice Act 2003 bad character provisions] ]

Exclusion of bad character evidence

In addition to the statutory tests for exclusion of bad character evidence the power to exclude evidence under section 78 PACE 1984 is not affected by the Criminal Justice Act 2003 provisions ( [http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200203/ldhansrd/vo031119/text/31119-17.htm#31119-17_time0 House of Lords, Hansard, 19 November 2003, Col. 1988] ). Bad Character evidence may be excluded on the grounds of unfairness [ [http://www.wikicrimeline.co.uk/index.php?title=Exclusion_of_evidence_on_the_ground_of_unfairness Exclusion of evidence on the ground of unfairness] ]

Links

* [http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200203/ldhansrd/vo030915/text/30915-16.htm Hansard] 15 Sept 2003: Column 716

Notes and references


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