Regina v Miller: 1952

The fact that a defendant has previous convictions is not normally relevant: ‘The fundamental principle, equally applicable to any question that is asked by the defence as to any question that is asked by the prosecution, is that it is not normally relevant to inquire into a prisoner’s previous character, and, particularly, to ask questions which tend to show that he has previously committed some criminal offence. It is not relevant because the fact that he has committed an offence on one occasion does not in any way show that he is likely to commit an offence on any subsequent occasion. Accordingly, such questions are, in general, inadmissible, not primarily for the reason that they are prejudicial, but because they are irrelevant.’
As to the possibility of separate trials for conspirators: ‘The cases must be rare in which fellow conspirators can properly in the interests of justice be granted a separate trial.’ There is a considerable risk with separate trials in such circumstances and on such a charge that the jurors would each hear a very different account of events from the defendants they were trying with a distinct possibility of a miscarriage of justice.


Devlin J


[1952] 36 Cr App R 169


England and Wales

Cited by:

CitedRegina v Randall (EP) CACD 21-Feb-2003
The defendant had been a co-accused on a charge of murder. He appealed saying the judge had incorrectly directed the jury on the relevance of his co-accused’s previous convictions for violence.
Held: The appeal was allowed. He should have been . .
CitedRegina v Thompson and others CACD 1995
The court considered the circumstances under which an accused could call in aid the convictions of a co-defendant:
Held: It was fundamental that it is not normally relevant to enquire into a defendant’s previous character or to ask questions . .
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 Cairns; Regina v Zaldi, Regina v Chaudary CACD 22-Nov-2002
The defendants applied for the defence statements of co-defendants to be disclosed. A co-defendant was to give evidence for the Crown, and they sought to have it excluded as unreliable.
Held: The 1996 Act created a duty of secondary . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Criminal Practice, Criminal Evidence

Updated: 16 May 2022; Ref: scu.189884