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Sheriff wrongly excluded accused's evidence on police interview

30 June 2014

A sheriff wrongly excluded evidence from an accused as to how he felt pressured during a police interview, though another sheriff had earlier repelled an objection to the interview being led in evidence, the criminal appeal court has ruled.

Three judges quashed the conviction for indecent exposure of Jack Allan at Aberdeen Sheriff Court, holding that a miscarriage of justice had occurred as the jury had been prevented from considering the admissions in the interview in light of all the material evidence relating to them.

At appeal, the Crown conceded that an objection to the line of evidence about how the appellant felt during the police interview should not have been sustained, but did not accept that a miscarriage of justice had occurred as material on how the appellant had felt, and the effect of his having an identity disorder, had come out in any event.

Lady Smith, who heard the appeal along with Lord Drummond Young and Lord Philip, agreed that the objection should not have been sustained, having regard to the case of Platt in 2004. "The prior ruling that the evidence of the police interview was admissible did not bar questioning at trial designed to explore the appellant’s feelings and state of mind during the interview with a view to laying the ground for inviting the jury to place little or no weight on his  admissions", she stated.

The sheriff had also gone on to direct the jury that there was no challenge to the fairness of the interview, "which was not the position at all".

The accused's counsel had felt constrained from exploring the issue of how the appellant felt, and the jury could have taken further directions from the sheriff as meaning they were not entitled to consider any evidence on the subject. It could not be said with confidence that the other evidence was sufficient for conviction. "In those circumstances, the need for the appellant to be able, in fairness to him, to lay before the jury all that he had to say about his admissions to the police, was highlighted", Lady Smith said. "He was, however, prevented from doing so."

Click here to view the opinion.

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