Regina v Luttrell; Regina v Dawson; Regina v Hamberger: CACD 28 May 2004

The defendants appealed saying the court had wrongly admitted the evidence of a lip reader.
Held: Lip-reading was a recognised skill, and provided the judge gave appropriate warnings to a jury, recognising the possibility that evidence may not be completely accurate, such evidence was admissible.
Rose LJ said: ‘A skill or expertise can be recognised and respected and thus satisfy the conditions for admissible expert evidence, although the discipline is not susceptible to this sort of scientific discipline.’
Rose LJ continued: ‘With certain limited categories of evidence it is necessary for the judge to give the jury a special warning, highlighting both the potential dangers involved in relying on the evidence in question, and the need to exercise particular caution, e.g. eyewitness evidence identifying a defendant: R v Turnbull [1976] 63 Cr App R 132, 1977 1 Q.B. 224; the identification of a defendant by his voice: R v Hersey [1998] Crim LR 281; R v Gummerson and Steadman [1999] Crim LR 680; R v Roberts [2000] Crim LR 183; and alleged ‘cell confessions’ by defendants: R v Pringle UKPC 17 of 2002 unreported, BAILII: [2003] UKPC 9, 27 January 2003; Benedetto V The Queen and Labrador v The Queen [2003] 1 WLR 1545; Pollitt v The Queen [1991-1992] 174 C.L.R. 558.
The general principle derived from those and other cases is that a ‘special warning’ is necessary if experience, research or common sense has indicated that there is a difficulty with a certain type of evidence that requires giving the jury a warning of its dangers and the need for caution, tailored to meet the needs of the case. This will often be the case where jurors may be unaware of the difficulty, or may insufficiently understand it.
The strength of the warning and its terms will depend on the nature of the evidence, its reliability or lack of it, and the potential problems it poses. For instance, it has been recognised that identification of a suspect by voice is less reliable than visual identification evidence, and accordingly usually requires a warning that is couched in stronger terms: see Hersey; Gummerson and Steadman and Roberts.’


Rose LJ


Times 09-Jun-2004, [2004] EWCA Crim 1344, [2004] 2 Cr App R 31




England and Wales

Cited by:

CitedAtkins and Another v Regina CACD 2-Oct-2009
The court considered the use in evidence of facial photograph comparison techniques. The expert had given an opinion that the comparison gave support to a conclusion that the photograph in issue was of the defendant, but there was no database . .
CitedThe Queen v Crawford PC 11-Nov-2015
From the Court of Appeal of the Cayman Islands – The crown appealed against the quashing of the respondent’s conviction for possession of an unlicensed firearm. A gun was found where he had been seen to discard a gun whilst being chased. The . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Criminal Evidence

Updated: 11 June 2022; Ref: scu.198146