Police Entrapment is no defence to Criminal Act
The defendant complained of his conviction for supplying controlled drugs, saying that the undercover police officer had requested him to make the supply.
Held: It was an abuse of process for the police to go so far as to incite a crime.
Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead said: ‘The stay is sometimes said to be on the ground that the proceedings are an abuse of process, but Lord Griffiths described the jurisdiction more broadly and, I respectfully think, more accurately, as a jurisdiction to prevent abuse of executive power’ and ‘My Lords, every court has an inherent power and duty to prevent abuse of its process. This is a fundamental principle of the rule of law. By recourse to this principle courts ensure that executive agents of the state do not misuse the coercive, law enforcement functions of the courts and thereby oppress citizens of the state. Entrapment . . is an instance where such misuse may occur. It is simply not acceptable that the state through its agents should lure its citizens into committing acts forbidden by the law and then seek to prosecute them for doing so. That would be entrapment. That would be a misuse of state power, and an abuse of the process of the courts. The unattractive consequences, frightening and sinister in extreme cases, which state conduct of this nature could have are obvious. The role of the courts is to stand between the state and its citizens and make sure this does not happen’.
The distinction to be made is between an undercover officer inciting a person to commit a crime he would not otherwise have committed, and the same officer making available an unexceptional opportunity to commit a crime. Every court had an inherent and fundamental power and duty to prevent abuse of its process. A defendant was excused, not because he was less culpable, but because the police had behaved improperly. There is no appreciable difference between the English law as developed, and Human Rights law.
Lord Nicholls said: ‘My Lords, every court has an inherent power and duty to prevent abuse of its process. This is a fundamental principle of the rule of law. By recourse to this principle courts ensure that executive agents of the state do not misuse the coercive, law enforcement functions of the courts and thereby oppress citizens of the state. Entrapment, with which these two appeals are concerned, is an instance where such misuse may occur. It is simply not acceptable that the state through its agents should lure its citizens into committing acts forbidden by the law and then seek to prosecute them for doing so. That would be entrapment. That would be a misuse of state power, and an abuse of the process of the courts. The unattractive consequences, frightening and sinister in extreme cases, which state conduct of this nature could have are obvious. The role of the courts is to stand between the state and its citizens and make sure this does not happen.’
Lord Hoffman summarised the principles of entrapment: ‘First, entrapment is not a substantive defence in the sense of providing a ground upon which the accused is entitled to an acquittal. Secondly, the court has jurisdiction in a case of entrapment to stay the prosecution on the ground that the integrity of the criminal justice system would be compromised by allowing the state to punish someone whom the state itself has caused to transgress. Thirdly, although the court has a discretion under section 78 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 to exclude evidence on the ground that its admission would have an adverse effect on the fairness of the proceedings, the exclusion of evidence is not an appropriate response to entrapment. The question is not whether the proceedings would be a fair determination of guilt but whether they should have been brought at all.’
Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead Lord Mackay of Clashfern Lord Hoffmann Lord Hutton Lord Scott of Foscote
Times 29-Oct-2001, Gazette 22-Nov-2001,  UKHL 53,  1 WLR 2060,  4 All ER 897,  1 Cr App R 29,  UKHRR 333,  HRLR 8
House of Lords, Bailii
England and Wales
Cited – Director of Public Prosecutions v Marshall 1988
Cited – Nottingham City Council v Amin QBD 2-Dec-1999
Where a plain clothes officers had invited a taxi driver to take them to a destination in breach of his licence without disclosing their identity, and he did so willingly, their evidence was not to be excluded as that of an agent provocateur. . .
Cited – Teixeira De Castro v Portugal ECHR 9-Jun-1998
Mr De Castro had been the target of an unwarranted, unauthorised, unsupervised police operation in which undercover officers incited him to supply drugs. He challenged a conviction for trafficking in heroin, based mainly on statements of two police . .
Cited – Regina v Mack 15-Dec-1988
Supreme Court of Canada
Appellant testified at his trial for drug trafficking and, at the close of his defence, brought an application for a stay of proceedings on the basis of entrapment. His testimony indicated that he had persistently . .
Cited – Mullen, Regina (on the Application of) v Secretary of State for the Home Department HL 29-Apr-2004
The claimant had been imprisoned, but his conviction was later overturned. He had been a victim of a gross abuse of executive power. The British authorities had acted in breach of international law and had been guilty of ‘a blatant and extremely . .
Cited – A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, Mahmoud Abu Rideh Jamal Ajouaou v Secretary of State for the Home Department CA 11-Aug-2004
The claimants had each been detained without trial for more than two years, being held as suspected terrorists. They were free leave to return to their own countries, but they feared for their lives if returned. They complained that the evidence . .
Cited – A and others v Secretary of State for the Home Department (No 2) HL 8-Dec-2005
The applicants had been detained following the issue of certificates issued by the respondent that they posed a terrorist threat. They challenged the decisions of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission saying that evidence underlying the . .
Cited – Panday v Virgil PC 9-Apr-2008
(Trinidad and Tobago) The defendant’s appeal against conviction had succeeded on the basis of apparent bias in the tribunal. He now appealed the order remitting the case to be reheard, saying that a fair trial was no longer possible.
Held: The . .
Applied – M, Regina v CACD 18-Mar-2011
The prosecutor appealed against a ruling that the prosecution was an abuse of process, the defendant having said that the police officer had entrapped him into committing the offence of supplying a Class A drug. A police undercover drugs operation . .
Cited – Her Majesty’s Advocate v P SC 6-Oct-2011
(Scotland) The appellant had been interviewed by police without being offered access to a solicitor. He complained that the interview and information obtained only through it had been used to found the prosecution.
Held: The admission of the . .
Cited – Regina v Moore and Another CACD 13-Feb-2013
The appellants said that they had been entrapped into committing the offences of which they stood convicted. Their applications for stay on the ground of abuse of process had been rejected.
Held: The appeal failed.
Rix Lj said: ‘the . .
Cited – Regina v Moon CACD 10-Nov-2004
The defendant, a heroin addict said that the encouragement of a police officer to supply her with a small quantity of heroin amounted to entrapment and that her prosecution should have been stayed as an abuse of process. The officer had been . .
Cited – Maxwell, Regina v SC 20-Jul-2011
The defendant had had his conviction for murder set aside after a finding of gross prosecutorial misconduct by the police. The Court was now asked as to the propriety of the order for a retrial. The police involved in the case had misled the CPS, . .
Cited – Palmer and Others v Regina CACD 7-Aug-2014
Three defendants appealed against convictions for selling stolen goods, saying that the police had used entrapment. The officers had established a shop at which thieves might expect to sell goods. Each defendant had pleaed guilty after a ruling . .
Cited – Regina v Harmes and Another CACD 9-May-2006
The appellant Harmes ran a public house and was suspected of involvement in the distribution of Class A drugs and money laundering. An undercover police operation was launched and approved which lasted approximately 3 months. One of the undercover . .
Cited – Regina v Farooqi and Others CACD 30-Sep-2013
Defendants appealed against their conviction of terrorist acts alleging incompetence by their leading counsel.
Held: The appeal failed: ‘ Notwithstanding many unfortunate features of this trial the convictions of three of the defendants, and . .
Cited – Ali Syed, Regina v CACD 18-Dec-2018
The defendant faced trial on allegations of acts in preparation of terrorism. He wanted to say that he had been encouraged by security officers and argued that he English law as to entrapment was incompatible with his human rights, and now sought . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Criminal Practice, Police, Human Rights
Updated: 01 November 2021; Ref: scu.166702