Regina v Cole: CCA 1965

Six men robbed the bank manager and his assistant of monies in a safe in the vault of the bank premises. Two days later the appellant paid part of the proceeds of the robbery into two banks, located nearby to the vicinity of the robbery. Wax seals used by the bank were found in the appellant’s flat, a piece of which matched a piece found outside the bank. On being arraigned, the appellant pleaded not guilty to counts of conspiracy to rob (Count 1) and armed robbery (Count 2), but guilty to a count of receiving stolen goods (Count 3). The appellant stood trial three times on that indictment. At the first trial, Widgery J refused to accept the plea of guilty to Count 3 and ordered a not guilty plea to be entered. That jury could not agree on a verdict and were discharged. At the second trial Lawton J refused to accept that plea of guilty. That jury was also discharged. At the third trial, Lawton J ordered Count 3 to be severed from the indictment. Having been discharged from entering a verdict in respect of Count 1, the jury found the appellant guilty of Count 2. It was argued for the appellant that Widgery J had erred in refusing to accept the plea of guilty to Count 3 and in ordering that a plea of not guilty be entered. Having been found guilty of receiving the stolen goods, subsequently the appellant could not be tried for conspiracy to rob or armed robbery.
Held: Lord Parker CJ said it was contended for the appellant ‘. . .that a plea of guilty must be recorded, that once recorded it ranks as a conviction . . that the judge had no power to direct that that plea should be altered and entered as one of not guilty; and that, on the basis that the plea of guilty remained and was a conviction, it was not possible for the prosecution to proceed further and have the appellant tried for armed robbery.’
Of the issue of when a conviction occurs, following a plea of guilty by a defendant on arraignment, Lord Parker CJ said: ‘It is quite clear that it does not occur at the time of the recording, because otherwise it would be impossible for a judge to allow a plea to be changed, as is perfectly possible up to sentence, and indeed in one of the cases the verdict of the jury itself was set aside before sentence. In the judgment of the court, it only ranks as a conviction when the defendant is sentenced.’
Of the appropriate procedure, where a defendant pleads to an alternative separate count on an indictment, Lord Parker CJ said: ‘This court has been invited to lay down what is the proper practice. It is merely sufficient to say that in the ordinary case a judge should allow the plea of guilty to stand. In those circumstances a defendant will only be put in charge of the jury on the serious charge, in this case the armed robbery. If he was acquitted of the armed robbery, then he can be sentenced on the count to which he has pleaded guilty. If, on the other hand, he is convicted of the armed robbery then the proper course for the judge is to allow the count to which he has pleaded guilty to remain on the file and not to proceed to sentence him.’
Lord Parker CJ ‘it is quite clear that whilst no doubt the confession of guilt is the highest conviction, nowhere is it stated either in Hale or Hawkins when the conviction occurred. It is clear that it does not occur at the time of the recording because otherwise it would be impossible for a judge to allow a plea to be changed, as is perfectly possible up to sentence, and indeed in one of the cases a verdict of a jury itself was set aside before sentence. In the judgment of the court it only ranks as a conviction when the defendant is sentenced’.
Lord Parker CJ
(1965) 49 Cr App R 199 (CCA), [1965] 2 QB 388, [1965] 2 All ER 29
England and Wales
Cited by:
CitedPollett and Others v Regina CACD 26-Mar-2013
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Held: In P’s case, the charges had been laid as alternatives, and having . .
CitedChallen v Challen and Another ChD 27-May-2020
Forfeiture rule disapplied after spousal abuse
The claimant sought the disapplication of the forfeiture rule. She had been convicted of the manslaughter of her seriously abusive husband. The court considered whether a conviction for murder set aside and replaced with one of manslaughter was a . .

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Updated: 11 May 2021; Ref: scu.510156