Lowery v The Queen: PC 1974

(Victoria) A young girl was sadistically murdered. The two accused, were present and the crime was committed by one or the other, or both. Each brought evidence of the unlikelihood that he could have committed the murder. L emphasised his good character and said that because of fear of K he had been unable to prevent the murder. K said that he had been under the influence of drugs and had been powerless to prevent L from killing the girl. Despite L’s objection, K was allowed to call a psychologist as to their respective personalities and, on that evidence, to invite the jury to conclude that it was less probable that K was the killer. They were both convicted. L unsuccessfully appealed to the Supreme Court of Victoria on the ground, inter alia, that the psychologist’s evidence ought not to have been admitted.
Held: Only in exceptionl circumstances can expert evidence be admissible as to the likelihood of the defendant’s veracity. The evidence of the psychologist was relevant in support of K’s case to show that his version of the facts was more probable than that put forward by the appellant. Accordingly the Privy Council dismissed the appeal. Evidence is relevant ‘if it tended to show that the version of the facts put forward by one co-accused was more probable than that put forward by the other’. The Board approved a statement as to the law: ‘It is . . established by the highest authorities that in criminal cases the Crown is precluded from leading evidence that does no more than show that the accused has a disposition or propensity or is the sort of person likely to commit the crime charged; .. it is, we think, one thing to say that such evidence is excluded when tendered by the Crown in proof of guilt, but quite another to say that it is excluded when tendered by the accused in disproof of his own guilt. We see no reason of policy or fairness which justifies or requires the exclusion of evidence relevant to prove the innocence of an accused person.’


Morris L


[1974] AC 85



Cited by:

ApprovedRegina v Randall (EP) CACD 21-Feb-2003
The defendant had been a co-accused on a charge of murder. He appealed saying the judge had incorrectly directed the jury on the relevance of his co-accused’s previous convictions for violence.
Held: The appeal was allowed. He should have been . .
CitedRegina v Thompson and others CACD 1995
The court considered the circumstances under which an accused could call in aid the convictions of a co-defendant:
Held: It was fundamental that it is not normally relevant to enquire into a defendant’s previous character or to ask questions . .
CitedRegina v Randall HL 18-Dec-2003
Two defendants accused of murder each sought to place blame for the victim’s death on the other. One sought to rely upon the other’s record of violence as evidence of his co-accused’s propensity to violence.
Held: The record was admissible. By . .
CitedHenry, Regina v CACD 29-Jun-2005
The defendant appealed his conviction for soliciting to murder and conspiracy to murder. An expert’s opinion now described him as of low intelligence and vulnerable to the sort of pressure of which he complained.
Held: The expert evidence had . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Crime, Evidence, Commonwealth

Updated: 19 May 2022; Ref: scu.189882