Regina v Boyes; 27 May 1861

References: (1861) 1 B & S 311, [1861] EngR 626, (1861) 121 ER 730
Links: Commonlii
Coram: Cockburn CJ
A defendant seeking to avoid answering questions so as not to incriminate himself is to be given some understanding and latitude in respecting his own interpretation. The beneficiary of a pardon could be called upon to incriminate himself because he merited no protection: ‘the effect of which [the pardon] was to make him a new man, and consequently to bar any proceedings by or in the name of the Crown’.
Cockburn CJ set out the level of risk required to allow a claim of the privilege against self incrimination: ‘To entitle a witness to the privilege of not answering a question as tending to incriminate him, the court must see, from the circumstances of the case and the nature of the evidence which the witness is called to give, that there is reasonable grounds to apprehend danger to the witness from his being compelled to answer. If the facts of the witness being endangered be once made to appear, great latitude should be allowed to him in judging the effect of any particular question. The danger to be apprehended must be real and appreciable, with reference to the ordinary operation of law in the ordinary course of things, and not a danger of imaginary character having reference to some barely possible contingency.’
This case cites:

  • Appeal from – Regina -v- Boyes ([1860] EngR 170, Commonlii, (1860) 2 F & F 157, (1860) 175 ER 1004)
    A witness, an accomplice in a criminal offence, who has received the pardon of the Crown under the Great Seal for that offence, has no privilege of refusing to answer questions relating to the offence, which may tend to criminate himself. He is . .

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