O’Brien v Chief Constable of the South Wales Police: CA 23 Jul 2003

The claimant sought damages for malicious prosecution, and sought to adduce similar fact evidence. The defendant appealed an order admitting the evidence.
Held: Comparisons between admission of similar fact evidence in civil and criminal proceedings were made. In general, the greater the putative force of the evidence the less ready a court should be to exclude it, but the court might do so where it might disproportionately affect the length of the trial, and particularly so in jury trials. The judge had properly directed himself in accordance with the CPR, and referred expressly to the discretion he was given and had exercised that discretion. Appeal dismissed.
There is a two stage test for the admission of similar fact evidence: ‘It follows that in civil proceedings, as opposed to criminal proceedings, the first question to be asked is whether the similar fact evidence is admissible. To be admissible it must be logically probative of an issue in the case, and the first part of the House of Lords’ test in P must be applied to exclude evidence which is not sufficiently similar to the evidence in the case before the court. At this stage the inquiry must be fact-sensitive . . Once it is decided that the evidence is admissible, the court must then ask itself whether it ought, in its discretion, to refuse to allow it to be admitted (and if it is of that view it should remove the contention from the party’s statement of case, or refuse to allow an amendment to include it, on the basis that an allegation which a party cannot prove ought not to form a part of its case). In deciding how to exercise its discretion, the matters listed in CPR 1(2) must loom large in the court’s deliberations. In principle, the stronger the probative force of the similar fact evidence, the more willing the court should be not to exclude it, everything else being equal. On the other hand, the court should have a tendency to refuse to allow similar fact evidence to be called if it would tend to lengthen the proceedings and add to their cost or complexity unless there are strong countervailing arguments the other way . . ‘

Lord Justice Brooke Lord Justice May Lord Justice Mantell
[2003] EWCA Civ 1085, Times 22-Aug-2003, Gazette 02-Oct-2003
Civil Procedure Rules 32.1(2)
England and Wales
CitedMakin v Attorney-General for New South Wales PC 12-Dec-1893
The accused had been charged with the murder of an infant who had been given into their care by the child’s mother after payment of a fee. They appealed after admission of evidence that several other infants had been received by the accused persons . .
CitedRegina v Boardman HL 1974
The defendant appealed the admission of similar fact evidence against him. Acts of buggery were alleged by a schoolmaster with boys in which the accused was the passive partner.
Held: In order to be admissible similar facts must bear a . .
CitedDirector of Public Prosecutions v P HL 1991
The defendant faced specimen counts of rape and incest against each of his two daughters. The trial judge refused an application for separate trials in respect of the offences alleged against each daughter. The defendant was convicted.
Held: . .
CitedRex v Smith 1915
. .
CitedRegina v Straffen CCA 20-Aug-1952
The defendant had been arrested for murders of young girls, but after being found unfit to plead, he was committed to Broadmoor. While he escaped another girl was murdered, and he was charged. The prosecutor sought to bring in evidence of admissions . .
CitedRegina v Venn CACD 1-Feb-2003
The defendant appealed convictions for sexual assault against four young girls.
Held: The admissibility of ‘similar fact’ evidence depends upon the degree of its relevance. If only suggests propensity it is inadmissible. If it goes further and . .
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 . .
CitedRegina v H (Evidence: Corroboration) HL 25-May-1995
The fact that there may have been a possibility of collusion is not sufficient to stop the admission of similar fact evidence by way of corroboration. ‘ . . the function of the trial judge is not to decide as an intellectual process whether the . .
CitedMood Music Publishing Co v De Wolfe Ltd CA 1976
The plaintiffs alleged breach of copyright case involving music and sought to have admitted in evidence similar fact evidence showing that the defendants had published music resembling material protected by copyright in the past. The defendant . .
CitedRegina v Isleworth Crown Court ex parte Marland Admn 28-Oct-1997
A previous conviction of the defendant for a drugs related offence was admissible on a civil application for the forfeiture of cash said to represent the proceeds of drug trafficking under the section 43(1). The court observed that the circumstances . .
CitedBerger v Raymond Sun Ltd 1984
The court distinguished the test of the admissibility of evidence of similar facts from the criteria according to which the court should exercise its discretion to exclude such evidence. He said that the test of admissibility was the same in civil . .
CitedMetropolitan Asylum District Managers v Hill HL 7-Mar-1881
There was an allegation that the managers had been committing an actionable nuisance, alternatively that they had been negligent in and about the construction and maintenance of a hospital for small-pox patients in Hampstead. The trial judge had . .
CitedSattin v National Union Bank Ltd CA 21-Feb-1978
The plaintiff sought damages from the loss of a diamond deposited with the defendant bank as security. He asked to present evidence about the experience of another customer who had lost jewellery he had deposited with it.
Held: The proposed . .
CitedKirkup v British Rail Engineering Ltd CA 1983
Where interrogatories are administered they should be drafted with considerable rigour because if they are so widely drawn as to be vague they may be regarded as oppressive. . .
CitedThorpe v Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police CA 1989
The plaintiff was arrested at a demonstration, charged with obstructing the highway and convicted before the magistrates. His conviction was quashed by the Crown Court on appeal. He sued for assault, unlawful arrest, false imprisonment and malicious . .
CitedNaylor v Preston Health Authority CA 1987
The purposes of discovery include not only obtaining relevant evidence, but also reducing surprise and promoting fairness by putting parties in an equal position at trial, so that the parties are ‘playing with all the cards face up on the table’ the . .
CitedJoy v Phillips Mills and Co Ltd CA 1916
Circumstantial evidence of ‘the habits and ordinary doings’ may be admissible.
Phillimore LJ said: ‘Wherever an inquiry has to be made into the cause of the death of a person, and, there being no direct evidence, recourse must be had to . .
CitedSteel v Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police 10-Feb-1993
The plaintiffs sued three police officers for malicious prosecution. Specific discovery of documents relating to the previous misconduct of one of these officers was refused.
Held: Appeal allowed. Confessions were the only evidence against the . .
CitedGrobbelaar v Sun Newspapers Ltd CA 9-Jul-1999
With the new Civil Procedure Rules, it was no longer correct that a court could not exclude evidence which was relevant, on the grounds that its probative value was outweighed by its prejudicial effect. The court now has full power and discretion to . .
CitedRegina v Edwards CACD 1991
The appellant was convicted of robbery with a firearm and sentenced to 14 years. The evidence included police evidence of his confessions in interview. He challenged the veracity of the interview notes, alleging that the police officers concerned . .
CitedRegina (on the Application of O’Brien, Hickey, Hickey) v Independent Assessor QBD 16-Apr-2003
The claimants were to be awarded damages for having been wrongly imprisoned for many years. The respondent was to calculate the award. They complained that he had refused to particularise the award to identify and itemise non-pecuniary loss.
Cited by:
CitedPolanski v Conde Nast Publications Ltd HL 10-Feb-2005
The claimant wished to pursue his claim for defamation against the defendant, but was reluctant to return to the UK to give evidence, fearing arrest and extradition to the US. He appealed refusal of permission to be interviewed on video tape. Held . .
Appeal fromO’Brien v Chief Constable of South Wales Police HL 28-Apr-2005
The claimant sought damages against the police, and wanted to bring in evidence of previous misconduct by the officers on a similar fact basis. They had been imprisoned and held for several years based upon admissions which they said they had . .
CitedJP Morgan Chase Bank and others v Springwell Navigation Corporation ComC 14-Mar-2005
The defendants had invested money through the claimants, but had suffered severe losses. The claimants sought a declaration that they had no liability for such losses. The defendants counterclaimed that the claimants were liable in negligence, . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Evidence, Civil Procedure Rules

Updated: 28 November 2021; Ref: scu.184872