Read our December 2017 round up of criminal news in brief by our crime team

Criminal barristers Thomas Evans, Graham Gilbert and Thomas Acworth bring you the latest edition of Criminal News in Brief.

The Supreme Court

  • Assistance by Defendants: When considering whether to refer a sentence made under s.73 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 back to a court: the interests of justice do not automatically require a prosecutor to make the referral if there has been a change of circumstances and there were no countervailing reasons not to do so. Such a position would render the consideration of the interests of justice meaningless. Rather, the prosecutor should undertake an open-ended consideration of all the relevant factors. Additionally, it is unnecessary to consider every aspect of a cooperating witness’s account when coming to a decision, to suggest otherwise would impose an impossible burden (In the matter of an application by Jason Loughlin for Judicial Review (Northern Ireland) [2017] UKSC 63).
  • Dishonesty: The Ghosh test appears to have been shelved in obiter remarks Ivey v Genting Casinos (UK) Ltd t/a Crockfords [2017] UKSC 67. To read Thomas Evans' analysis, please click here.

The Court of Appeal

  • Drugs: Nitrous Oxide (aka laughing gas) was found not to be an exempted substance for the purposes of the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 where the Appellants were in possession of canisters commonly found in the catering industry. Their convictions for possessing a psychoactive substance with intent to supply were upheld. Although, note that the prosecution has the burden of proving ‘recreational’ use (R v Chapman & Others [2017] EWCA Crim 1743).
  • Prejudicial reporting: When assessing whether media reports of David Cameron’s disparaging remarks to the Queen about corruption in Nigeria had had an adverse impact on the fairness of a trial, the judge was right to focus on whether the comments related to a central issue in the case (R v Chapman [2017] EWCA Crim 557).
  • Credit: a judge’s decision to only give 10% credit for a guilty plea entered at a PTR was upheld. The overwhelming nature of the case against the defendant meant that, even if a plea had been offered at the earliest opportunity, he would only have been entitled to a 20% reduction. His delay in entering a plea merited a further reduction (R v Coughlin [2017] EWCA Crim 1021).
  • Hearsay:  Hearsay evidence should not have been admitted where the defence was that the prosecution witnesses had conspired against D. The judge’s directions did not provide a cure: he failed to direct the jury on the circumstances of the witness’ absence; its potential link to the defence case; and the impact that such a link might have upon the credibility of the hearsay evidence.  Detailed rulings on the admissibility of hearsay evidence should be given before speeches. (R v Kiziltan [2017] EWCA Crim 1461)

The High Court

  • Animals: A person may be guilty of keeping or training an animal for use in connection with an animal fight contrary to the Animal Welfare Act 2006 where they delegate those tasks to a third party. (Wright v Reading Crown Court [2017] EWHC 2643 Admin).