Barnes v Chief Constable of Durham: Admn 24 Apr 1997

The defendant was prosecuted for a driving offence. No identification parade had been held, and he was identified in the dock at court.
Held: Despite the firmly-rooted hostility to dock identifications in the Crown Court, they are permitted in driving cases in the magistrates’ court.
Popplewell J said: ‘There is no logic in making a distinction in regard to dock identifications between the Crown Court and the magistrates’ court. However it has to be recognised that every day in a magistrates’ court those charged for instance with careless driving, who have made no statement to the police, are entitled to sit back and in the absence of identification to submit that it has not been proven that they were the driver. Such an example is to be found in Jones v Carter [1956] Crim.L.R 275 where an acquittal was directed in a careless driving case where the prosecutor had not proved that the defendant was driving although there had been no cross-examination by the defence as to identity and the case had been conducted on the basis that the defendant who did not testify was driving.
To deal with that it has been customary ever since I can remember for a police officer or other witnesses to be asked, ‘Do you see the driver in court,’ and for him to identify the defendant. Absent such an identification an acquittal may well follow. If in every case where the defendant does not distinctly admit driving there has to be an identification parade, the whole process of justice in a magistrates’ court would be severely impaired. There are of course other ways in which a driver of a car can be identified but what I have just described is the norm. And in Middleton v Rowlett [1954] W.L.R.331 the magistrates refused to allow the prosecution to re-open their case where they had failed to give evidence as to identity and the Divisional Court refused to interfere with this exercise and the magistrates’ discretion. For my part I make no observation on the correctness of the passage that appears in Archbold but in this case I have to look at the facts as they appeared to the magistrates and decide whether on the facts of this case it was plainly unfair to allow a dock identification. I do not so find.’


McCowan LJ, Popplewell J


[1997] EWHC Admin 408, [1997] 2 Cr App R 505, (1998) 162 JP 126



Cited by:

CitedHolland v Her Majesty’s Advocate (Devolution) PC 11-May-2005
The defendant appealed his convictions for robbery. He had been subject to a dock identification, and he complained that the prosecution had failed in its duties of disclosure.
Held: The combination of several failings meant that the defendant . .
CitedKaria, Regina (on The Application of) v The Director of Public Prosecutions Admn 10-Oct-2002
The defendant appealed by case stated against a decision of the Crown Court on appeal rejecting his assertion that he had not been proved to have been driving a car on the occasion when the offences occurred. The court had allowed a dock . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Criminal Practice, Magistrates

Updated: 26 May 2022; Ref: scu.137353