LAW REPORT: Transcript of Cell Confession Evidence Unfair

Article excerpt

Regina v Lockley; R v Corah Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) (Lord Justice Pill, Mr Justice Ognall and Mr Justice Buckley) 26 May 1995

When considering whether the transcript of evidence given by a witness at an earlier trial of a cell confession by the accused should be admitted in evidence under the Criminal Justice Act 1988 where the witness had absconded, the bad character of the witness was not an overriding factor, but, if the witness had boasted of an ability to deceive, it was important for the jury to assess the witness's demeanour and manner of giving evidence.

The Court of Appeal dismissed Adrian Neil Lockley's appeal against conviction of murder and allowed Lisa Mary Corah's appeal against conviction of murder.

The appellants were charged with murdering Corah's brother-in-law. Corah made a statement to the police that Lockley came to her home with a bloody pickaxe handle. The jury at the appellants' trial in March 1993 were discharged because of illness. At the retrial in May 1993, a transcript of evidence given at the March trial by Corah's cellmate was put in evidence as the witness had absconded from an open prison while on home leave. Evidence about the circumstances in which the witness's evidence became available, including an inducement of a transfer to open prison, and her character was also given.

Lockley appealed on the ground that the trial should have been severed because of the prejudice to him of being jointly tried with Corah. Corah appealed on the ground that the transcript should have been excluded.

Nicholas Paul; Ben Emmerson, who did not appear below (Registrar of Criminal Appeals) for the appellants; Tim Spencer (CPS) for the Crown.

Lord Justice Pill, giving the court's judgment, said that the transcript was admissible as first-hand hearsay under section 23 of the 1988 Act.

The expression "statement prepared for the purposes of contemplated criminal proceedings" in section 24 included a statement made in the course of criminal proceedings. One of the purposes of recording criminal proceedings was to make available a record for use on any appeal to a higher court. The transcript was also admissible as a "business etc document" under section 24. …