Regina v Armstrong: HL 1922

The defendant was charged with the murder of his wife by giving her arsenic. His defence was that he had not administered the poison, although he admitted that he had arsenic which, he said, he used as a weed killer. He claimed that his wife had either committed suicide or had taken the arsenic by accident. The prosecution was permitted to call evidence that another solicitor, a Mr Martin, had visited the accused’s home eight months after his wife’s death and had suffered an episode of arsenic poisoning that evening. The purpose of calling evidence about the attempt to poison Mr Martin was, the prosecution said, to rebut the suggestion that Mrs Armstrong had either committed suicide or taken the arsenic by accident. The trial judge, Darling J. directed the jury that, unless it was proved that Armstrong had given arsenic to Martin with intent to injure him, the evidence had ‘no bearing whatever upon this case’.
Held: The conviction stood, with the Court approving the direction.
Discussion and disagreement in public as to what happened in the jury room is likely to undermine public confidence in the jury system. The very simplicity of the jury’s verdict, guilty or not guilty, is crucial.
Lord Hewart
[1922] 2 KB 555
England and Wales
Cited by:
CitedRegina v Connor and another; Regina v Mirza HL 22-Jan-2004
The defendants sought an enquiry as to events in the jury rooms on their trials. They said that the secrecy of a jury’s deliberations did not fit the human right to a fair trial. In one case, it was said that jurors believed that the defendant’s use . .
CitedMitchell, Regina v SC 19-Oct-2016
Appeal against conviction for murder. Evidence was agreed with her representatives as to previous acts using knives, but was presented despite withdrawal by her of her consent. The prosecution now appealed against the quashing of the conviction.
Updated: 14 January 2021; Ref: scu.192271