Hearsay rules clarified but further guidaince is needed
The Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) has held, in R v Chinn  All ER (D) 130 (Mar), that not all of a witness statement should have been put before the jury; however the jury had not heard any inadmissible evidence of importance. Sara Woodhouse Davie of GCN was interviewed for Lexis Nexis Current Awareness (published 16.4.12) and welcomed this clarification of hearsay rules but said further guidance is needed.
Extracts from the article as follows:
Following an incident in a nightclub, a defendant was convicted of unlawful wounding. He was identified as the person who threw a glass bottle causing injury by a witness who gave a police statement a few hours afterwards. However, at trial, he had little memory of some aspects of the incident, relying only on his statement. At issue was whether the evidence in the statement was admissible and the conviction unsafe under s120 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003...
Sara Woodhouse Davie comments: âThe court observed that those parts of the document on which the witness was cross examined and which he accepted as being the case would be admissible as evidence of those facts anyway. It therefore appears that the Court has construed the poorly drafted subsection [s 120(3)] to give effect to its intended purpose. What is clear, however, and should be borne in mind by practitioners, is that the document itself should not be given to the jury (even though it is an exhibit) unless the parties agree or the court considers it appropriate.â
âContrary to the commentary in Archbold 2012(at para 11-38), this subsection may apply regardless of whether or not the witness can recall the relevant description (unaided or at all) at the time of giving oral evidence. Criminal practitioners should be alert to this provision as it will allow prosecutors to routinely seek to introduce a previous statement if it contains such a description. A defendant can no longer rely on witnesses not âcoming up to proofâ in relation to previous identifications or descriptions.â
She comments: âIn practice, many contested trials take place a number of months or even years after an alleged incident is said to have occurred. Defendants should therefore be advised that cases may still proceed, even if a prosecution witness can no longer remember all or part of their evidence by the date of the trial. (That said â it should be noted that s 120 can equally apply to the previous statement of a Defendant who chooses to give evidence at trial).â
> The full article can be found on under Current Awareness on the Lexis Nexis network (subscription only) ref: LNB News 17/04/2012 46 "Hearsay Rules Clarified But Further Guidance is Needed". Click here to sign in if you have an account.