Where a defendant jointly charged with murder denied being the killer, but refused at trial to either eliminate or identify his co-defendant as the killer despite answering questions from prosecuting counsel in a manner which suggested that he was, it had not been unfair for the co-defendant’s counsel in his closing submissions to attack the defendant’s credibility, or for the judge to give an accomplice warning to the jury.
An interview by police officers with an accomplice witness, at the request of counsel for the Crown, to address inconsistencies in his witness statement after he had undergone a lengthy process of statement-taking should not have happened. However, the trial was not rendered unfair as the trial process was apt to cope with the situation.
Although two prosecution witnesses had been told too much by the police about the reasons for the appellant’s retrial for manslaughter, and an anonymity order in respect of one of the witnesses had not been necessary to protect him or his family, the retrial was fair and the conviction was safe. The appellant’s 16-year custodial sentence did not, however, take sufficient account of the fact that he had been the passenger in a vehicle that had run over and killed the victim, and as such was less culpable than the driver. A sentence higher than 14 years’ imprisonment could not be justified.
The judge’s repeated references, when summing up in a murder trial, to his ruling on a voir dire, to the effect that the defendant had signed a confession voluntarily, amounted to a material irregularity given that the defendant had alleged that the confession had been obtained as a result of police violence.
The fact that a co-defendant to a charge of murder had entered into an agreement to assist the authorities which provided that he would plead guilty to manslaughter in circumstances where there was no legal basis for that offence did not made the admission of his evidence at the trial of the other defendants an abuse or unfair.