Friday 18 January 2008

Friday miscellanea number 5

[Please note that the date of Professor Lacey's lecture was wrongly given as the 16th (two days ago!) in the original version of this post. This has now been corrected.]

(a) Public lecture on criminal law in Edinburgh

Nicola Lacey, Professor of Criminal Law at the London School of Economics, will deliver a public lecture at the University of Edinburgh on the 29th January 2008. The lecture takes place at 5pm in Lecture Theatre 175, Old College, and is on the topic “From Moll Flanders to Tess of the D'Urbervilles: Gender, Identity and Criminalisation in Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century England".

Professor Lacey delivered both the Clarendon Lectures (on the same topic as her Edinburgh lecture) and the Hamlyn Lectures last year. Her last Hamlyn lecture is currently available as a podcast from the LSE website.

(b) Jury verdicts “under explanation”

According to the first appeal court decision of 2008, juries not only have the power to delete words from an indictment, but can also add extraneous words in the form of “explanations”.

In Fletcher v HM Advocate [2008] HCJAC 1, the accused was charged with being concerned in the supply of a controlled drug, the locus being specified in the indictment as “at East Car Park, Low Causeway, Culross; the public car park at Low Valleyfield; 52 Chapel Place, High Valleyfield; 67 Chapel Street, High Valleyfield; 6 Valleyfield Avenue, High Valleyfield; 23 Pentland Terrace, High Valleyfield; all Fife and elsewhere”. (Two other addresses in Fife had been included in the list but deleted on the motion of the Crown.)

When the jury returned their verdict of guilty, the foreman was asked if they had any amendments to make, and replied: “The verdict applies to 26th May at Bourtrees Farm services.” After discussion, it was agreed that the jury were to be understood as deleting references to the other places named in the charge, and the verdict was recorded as “The Jury by a majority find the accused Brian Paul Fletcher guilty on charge one (as previously amended) on 26 May 2004 at Bourtrees Farm Services.”

On appeal, counsel for Mr Fletcher objected that the verdict was incompetent, because the jury could not add words to a libel and so it did not specify a location within the jurisdiction of the court. The appeal court rejected this argument, saying that, given the words “and elsewhere” in the charge, it was open to the jury to return “a verdict of guilty under deletion of the specifically named locations but with an explanation as to what place or places elsewhere their verdict related. That in substance is what the jury did in the present case.” (para 8)

The court’s suggestion that juries can return verdicts “under explanation” may be contrasted with the hostility to riders evidenced by HM Advocate v Tracey [2007] HCJ 14 (see earlier post), but the two cases are obviously very different in nature. (Incidentally, if anyone has any idea where "Bourtrees Farm Services" actually is - a Google search for the name throws up no results - feel free to leave a note in the comments section.)

(c) An unusual confession

Finally, not a Scottish case, but one which is surely worth a mention: David Henton is currently standing trial for the murder of his long-term partner in Swansea. The main evidence against him is exceptional: apparently he confessed to his cats. (See, amongst other sources, the BBC News website and the Telegraph.) Sadly, there is no indication that the cats themselves will be asked to give evidence.


Anonymous said...

Re. this evening's public lecture by Professor Lacey - a rich vein indeed. Might it possibly be turning up as an Edinburgh University Law School podcast?


James Chalmers said...

Firstly, apologies for giving the date of the lecture as being the 16th in the original post, given that even Professor Lacey is incapable of time travel. The lecture takes place on Tuesday 29th January - I have corrected the original post.

I don't know as yet whether the lecture will be available as a podcast - I've asked and will post that information when I have it. A working paper by Professor Lacey on the same topic as the lecture is available to download from the LSE website at