Mitchell v The Queen: PC 24 Jan 1998

(Bahamas) The judge’s decision on a voire dire to determine the admissibility of a confession should not be revealed to the jury since it might cause unfair prejudice to the defendant by conveying the impression that the judge had reached a concluded view on the credibility of the relevant witnesses and of the defendant. Lord Steyn said: ‘The vice is that the knowledge by the jury that the judge has believed the police and disbelieved the defendant creates the potentiality of prejudice. A jury of laymen, or some of them, might be forgiven for saying: ‘Well the judge did not believe the defendant, why should we believe him?’ At the very least it creates the risk that the jury, or some of them, may be diverted from grappling properly and independently with a defendant’s allegations of oppression so far as it is relevant to their decision. And such an avoidable risk of prejudice cannot be tolerated in regard to a procedure designed to protect a defendant.’ and as to whether this defect could be cured by the judge’s directions: ‘This was a serious irregularity, notably because it was calculated to convey to the jury that the judge had arrived at a concluded view that he ought to accept the evidence of the police witnesses and Franklyn Williams and reject the evidence of the defendant. That was the basis on which the jury then heard the evidence about the confessions over a number of days. The judge did not subsequently tell the jury to ignore his decision as to voluntariness of the confessions. For these reasons their Lordships cannot accept the Crown’s preliminary submission that the irregularity was ex post facto cured.’


Lord Steyn


Times 24-Jan-1998, [1998] UKPC 1, [1998] AC 695



Cited by:

CitedMichael Adams and Frederick Lawrence v Regina PC 18-Mar-2002
PC (Jamaica) The defendants appealed against convictions for non-capital murder. Because of delays, the defendants had served almost the full minimum sentence.
Held: The trial judge had heard a plea of no . .
CitedTaylor v The Queen PC 13-Mar-2006
(Jamaica) The defendant appealed against his conviction for murder. He complained that admissions against each other by the co-defendants had been entered in evidence despite his allegations of police mistreatment. The statement was the only . .
CitedMitcham v The Queen PC 16-Mar-2009
(Saint Christopher and Nevis) The applicant appealed against his sentence of death following his conviction for murder. He had been granted a stay of execution pending the appeal to the board and had since been given leave to appeal against . .
AppliedThompson v The Queen PC 16-Feb-1998
(Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) When a defendant is of good character, ie has no convictions of any relevance or significance, he is entitled to the benefit of a good character direction from the judge when summing up to the jury, tailored to fit . .
CitedKrishna v The State PC 6-Jul-2011
(Trinidad and Tobago) The applicant appealed against his conviction for murder, complaining as to the way a former co-accused had been allowed to give evidence and the admission of a confession, saying that he had been beaten by police officers.
CitedWilliams v The Queen PC 25-Apr-2006
PC Jamaica – the appellant had been twelve when convicted on his own confession of murder. He said that the statement after oppression. The statement had been challenged but admitted without following the . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Criminal Practice, Commonwealth

Updated: 19 May 2022; Ref: scu.83776