Regina v Aziz; Regina v Tosun; Regina v Yorganci: HL 16 Jun 1995

The defendant (one of three) relied upon his part exculpatory statement made in interview and did not give evidence. The judge said that his good character was relevant as to his own propensity, and the character of the others was relevant to their credibility. The appeals were upheld, and the crown in turn appealed.
Held: Both exculpatory and inculpatory parts of a defence statement were to be left to the jury as truth of their content. A judge could comment if a defendant failed to allow his account to be tested by cross examination, but had a discretion not to do so if common sense required otherwise. Here the convictions had been correctly quashed. A defendant is entitled to a good character direction on first conviction though the Judge may make amendments to the standard directions for propensity and credibility though other admissions. The good character of an accused is relevant not only to credibility but also to the likelihood that he would commit the offence in question.
The purpose of a good character direction was considered by Lord Steyn: ‘it has long been recognised that the good character of a defendant is logically relevant to his credibility and to the likelihood that he would commit the offence in question. That seems obvious. The question might nevertheless be posed: why should a judge be obliged to give directions on good character? The answer is that in modern practice a judge almost invariably reminds the jury of the principal points of the prosecution case. At the same time he must put the defence case before the jury in a fair and balanced way. Fairness requires that the judge should direct the jury about good character because it is evidence of probative significance. Leaving it entirely to the discretion of trial judges to decide whether to give directions on good character led to inconsistency and to repeated appeals. Hence there has been a shift from discretion to rules of practice and Vye was the culmination of this development . .’
Lord Steyn asked ‘What is good character?’ He recognised that a defendant may have no previous convictions but it may emerge during the course of the trial, for example through cross-examination on behalf of a co-defendant, that the defendant has in fact been dishonest for many years. How should the judge deal with such a case? Lord Steyn continued: ‘A good starting point is that a judge should never be compelled to give meaningless or absurd directions. And cases occur from time to time where a defendant, who has no previous convictions, is shown beyond doubt to have been guilty of serious criminal behaviour similar to the offence charged in the indictment. A sensible criminal justice system should not compel a judge to go through the charade of giving directions in according with the Vye in a case where the defendant’s claim to good character is spurious. I would further hold that a trial judge has a residual discretion to decline to give any character directions in the case of a defendant without previous convictions if the judge considers it an insult to common sense to give directions in accordance with Vye . . That brings me to the nature of the discretion. Discretions range from the open-textured discretionary powers to narrowly circumscribed discretionary powers. The residual discretion of a trial judge to dispense with character directions in respect of a defendant of good character is of the more limited variety. Prima facie directions must be given and the judge will often be able to place a fair and balanced picture before the jury by giving directions in accordance with Vye . . and then adding words of qualification concerning other proved or possible criminal conduct of the defendant which emerged during the trial. On the other hand, if it would make no sense to give character directions in accordance with Vye, the judge may in his discretion dispense with them’


Lord Steyn


Gazette 19-Jul-1995, Independent 16-Jun-1995, Times 16-Jun-1995, [1996] AC 41, [1995] 3 All ER 149, [1995] 2 Cr App R 478


England and Wales


CitedRegina v Durbin CACD 1995
The appellant had been convicted of the importation of 875 kilos of cannabis. He had spent convictions but more significantly he admitted in interview being engaged in smuggling other contraband goods. Furthermore, he admitted telling lies to the . .

Cited by:

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 . .
CitedRegina v Lambert HL 5-Jul-2001
Restraint on Interference with Burden of Proof
The defendant had been convicted for possessing drugs found on him in a bag when he was arrested. He denied knowing of them. He was convicted having failed to prove, on a balance of probabilities, that he had not known of the drugs. The case was . .
CitedGhaidan v Godin-Mendoza HL 21-Jun-2004
Same Sex Partner Entitled to tenancy Succession
The protected tenant had died. His same-sex partner sought a statutory inheritance of the tenancy.
Held: His appeal succeeded. The Fitzpatrick case referred to the position before the 1998 Act: ‘Discriminatory law undermines the rule of law . .
CitedIan Cauldero and Nigill Francois v The State PC 28-Sep-1999
PC (Trinidad and Tobago) The defendants appealed their convictions for murder. They complained at to the judge’s direction as to a statement and as to intent, where they had said that the gun had been wrestled . .
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 . .
CitedTeeluck and John v The State PC 23-Mar-2005
(Trinidad and Tobago) The defendant appealed against his conviction saying that his defence had been incompetent in having failed to require the judge to give a good character direction to the jury.
Held: The appeal was allowed. Recent cases . .
CitedMantoor Ramdhanie and others v The State PC 15-Dec-2005
PC (Trinidad and Tobago) The defendant appealed his conviction, saying he had not been properly able to pur forward his evidence of good character. The judge had prevented the defence putting questions to show a . .
CitedPayton, Regina v CACD 26-May-2006
The defendant appealed a conviction of possession of 66 grams of cannabis with intent to supply. Also found were a large number of small bags and pounds 7,000 in cash. The defendant said the cannabis was for his personal use, and the equipment had . .
CitedOnasanya v London Borough of Newham Admn 14-Jul-2006
The defendant had tried to sell his car by placing a notice in a rear window saying it was for sale, and leaving it on the street.
Held: The authority said that there was more than one purpose in the vehicle being left on the street, and that . .
CitedLord-Castle v Director of Public Prosecutions QBD 23-Jan-2009
The defendant appealed by case stated from his conviction for using a motor vehicle fitted with a siren. When stopped various items suggesting that driver might be providing an ambulance service were found. The siren was not used.
Held: The . .
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.
CitedShirley, Regina v CACD 8-Nov-2013
The defendant had been convicted of several very serious sexual and physical assaults and rapes. He appealed against his conviction, saying that the judge had not fairly represented his defence to the jury. He said that the complainant had been . .
CitedRegina v Gray CACD 30-Apr-2004
The court examined the authorities as to good chracter directions where a defendant had previous convictions. Rix LJ said: ‘In our judgment the authorities discussed above entitled us to state the following principles as applicable in this context: . .
CitedGAI v Regina CACD 5-Oct-2012
The defendant’s appeal based on the absence of a good character direction had succeeded. The court now gave its reasons.
Held: After reviewing the authorities, the appeal succeeded: ‘the learned judge was wrong to find that the fact that . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Criminal Practice, Evidence

Updated: 15 May 2022; Ref: scu.86077