Director of Public Prosecutions v Humphrys: HL 1977

Humphrys was charged with driving while disqualified. The issue was the correctness of the identification by a police constable. In evidence, Humphrys denied that he was the driver, or indeed that he had driven any car during the year in question. He was acquitted. Later he was charged with perjury said to arise from his untruthful evidence that he had not driven the car. At trial, the judge overruled a defence submission that the same constable who had given evidence at the first trial should not be allowed to give the same evidence at the second trial. It was argued that issue estoppel applied. The judge rejected the submission. The evidence was given. Humphrys was convicted of perjury. He appealed, and his conviction was quashed. The acquittal implied rejection of a police officer’s evidence, but the officer’s evidence was re-introduced. At the second trial. The defendant’s appeal succeeded.
Held: The House allowed the prosecutor’s appeal. The doctrine of issue estoppel had no place in English criminal law. The power to stop a prosecution for abuse of process should only be used in ‘most exceptional circumstances.’ It was doubtful whether magistrates had this jurisdiction at all. Courts should resist importing notions of issue estoppel or res judicata into the criminal law. Lord Salmon: ‘It is only if the prosecution amounts to an abuse of the process of the court and is oppressive and vexatious that the judge has the power to intervene.’ However, every court has a right in its discretion to decline to hear proceedings on the ground that they are oppressive and an abuse of the process of the court. The house emphasised the inherent jurisdiction of a criminal court to prevent an abuse of process should be distinguished from a purported power in the trial judge to refuse to allow a prosecution to proceed, merely because he considered, as a matter of policy, that the prosecution ought not to have been brought, or that it should not continue.
Lord Salmon discussed the role of a judge in deciding whether a case should proceed: ‘A judge has not and should not appear to have any responsibility for the institution of prosecutions; nor has he power to refuse to allow a prosecution to proceed merely because he considers that, as a matter of policy, it ought not to have been brought. It is only if the prosecution amounts to an abuse of the process of the court and is oppressive and vexatious tha the judge has the power to intervene.’

Viscount Dilhorne, Lord Salmon
[1977] AC 146, [1977] AC 1, [1976] 2 All ER 497, (1976) 63 Cr App R 95, [1976] 2 WLR 857
England and Wales
CitedRegina v Andrews-Weatherfoil Ltd CACD 1972
For so long as it is possible for persons concerned in a single offence to be tried separately, it is inevitable that the verdicts returned by the two juries will on occasion appear to be inconsistent with one another. Eveleigh J: ‘It is necessary . .
ExplainedSambasivam v Director of Public Prosecutions, Federation of Malaya PC 1950
(Malaya) The effect of a verdict of acquittal pronounced by a competent court after a lawful trial is not restricted to the fact that the person acquitted cannot be tried again for the same offence. It is binding and conclusive in all subsequent . .

Cited by:
CitedRegina v Derby Crown Court, ex parte Brooks QBD 1985
The court set out the characteristics of abuse of process in criminal matters. It may be an abuse of process if: ‘the prosecution have manipulated or misused the process of the court so as to deprive the defendant of a protection provided by the law . .
CitedAttorney General’s Reference (No 1 of 1990) CACD 1990
A police officer attended an incident where two people were arrested. Complaints about his conduct were made of which he was given notice. A formal investigation was instituted and adjourned pending the outcome of criminal proceedings against those . .
CitedRegina v Shanks CACD 19-Mar-2003
The appellant appealed his conviction for murder. He had shot his lover as she walked away from an argument. The fact of his conviction following mention of a guilty plea to possession of the firearm was complained of.
Held: The judge had . .
CitedRegina v Leeds Magistrates Court ex parte Serif Systems Limited and Hamilton Admn 9-Oct-1997
The applicant sought that summonses be set aside as an abuse of process, being begun to embarrass him as he set out to become an MP. Thirty one private summonses had been issued.
Held: Of the summonses to be continued it could not be said that . .
CitedHui Chi-ming v The Queen PC 5-Aug-1991
(Hong Kong) The defendant was charged with aiding and abetting a murder. A, carrying a length of water pipe and accompanied by the defendant and four other youths, seized a man and A hit him with the pipe, causing injuries from which he died. No . .
CitedPetch and Coleman v Regina CACD 13-Jul-2005
The defendants appealed their convictions for murder, saying that a co-defendant, have been captured after fleeing the country had later been treated more leniently, a plea of manslaughter having been accepted.
Held: In order to substitute . .
CitedRegina v Z (Prior acquittal) HL 22-Jun-2000
The defendant on a charge of rape had been tried and acquitted of the rape of different women on three previous occasions in three separate trials. The prosecution wished to call those three complainants to give similar fact evidence in support of . .
CitedAttorney General’s Reference (No 2 of 2000) CACD 23-Nov-2000
The defendant had faced a charge of possessing an offensive weapon, namely a rice flail. The judge invited the prosecution to reconsider the case before it started, but the case went ahead. After the jury was empanelled, but before the prosecutor . .
CitedLevey, Regina v CACD 27-Jul-2006
The defendant appealed against his conviction of manslaughter of his baby son. He said that a family court had previously investigated the same allegations and had explicitly found itself unable to say which of himself and the mother were . .
CitedRegina v Belmarsh Magistrates’ Court ex parte Fiona Watts Admn 8-Feb-1999
The defendant sought to have dismissed as an abuse of proces charges against her that as an officer of Customs and Excise prosecuting the now private prosecutor, she had committed various offences.
Held: The magistrate was vested with . .
CitedHertfordshire County Council v National Grid Gas Plc Admn 2-Nov-2007
The council laid complaints against the defenedant that it had not properly re-instated road surfaces after completing works. It now appealed, by way of case stated, against the court’s acceptance of the defendant’s argument that the large number of . .
CitedMaxwell, Regina v SC 20-Jul-2011
The defendant had had his conviction for murder set aside after a finding of gross prosecutorial misconduct by the police. The Court was now asked as to the propriety of the order for a retrial. The police involved in the case had misled the CPS, . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Criminal Practice, Road Traffic

Updated: 21 January 2022; Ref: scu.219688