Regina v Ollis: CCCR 1900

The defendant had obtained a sum of money by giving a worthless cheque. He was indicted for having obtained the money by false pretences. His defence was that when he gave the cheque he expected a payment into his bank account in time to meet the cheque, and he was acquitted. He was later tried on a second indictment charging him with three other acts of obtaining money by false pretences on three other worthless cheques. Counsel for the prosecution was allowed to call the same evidence that had been called against the defendant on the unsuccessful prosecution in respect of the one cheque, and the defendant was convicted.
Held: The evidence was legally admissible and that the conviction was right notwithstanding that the defendant had been acquitted of the former charge.
Lord Russell of Killowen CJ: ‘The evidence was, after discussion, admitted; and Ramsey made precisely the same statement he had made before upon the trial of the first indictment when the accused was acquitted. The only point for our present determination is, whether that evidence was legally admissible on the ground that the facts disclosed in it were relevant to the subsequent charges. It does not appear to have been argued that it was not relevant as showing guilty knowledge, if it were not inadmissible on the grounds suggested-namely, that the facts sought to be given in evidence had already been given, and that the accused had already been acquitted of the charge to which they related. It is clear that there was no estoppel; the negativing by the jury of the charge of fraud on the first occasion did not create an estoppel; nor is there any question arising upon the maxim ‘Nemo debet bis puniri pro uno delicto.’ The evidence was not less admissible because it tended to shew that the accused was, in fact, guilty of the former charge. The point is, was it relevant in support of the three subsequent charges? In the opinion of the majority of the court, and in my own opinion, it was relevant as shewing a course of conduct on the part of the accused, and a belief on his part that the cheques would not be met.’
Darling J: ‘It seems to me, therefore, that by the admission of this evidence the defendant was not ‘bis vexatus,’ for I feel sure that those words are not to be understood as meaning that a man is not to be more than once annoyed by the same evidence. I think they mean that he is not to be by legal process twice exposed to the risk of being found guilty of the same crime, or the same tort, or liable twice to pay the same debt, be it to the State or to his fellow citizen.
‘To hold otherwise seems to me to rule that evidence which has been given once shall never be produced again against the same defendant; yet it is plain that up to a certain point the evidence must often be the same, although the defendant is accused of wrongs done to two distinct persons, and that in different suits or forensic proceedings.’
Channell J: ‘Judges should be, and I believe generally are, careful not to allow proof of other acts of the prisoner besides those the subject of the indictment to be given, unless those facts have a clear bearing on some issue raised by the indictment, but if they have such a bearing I am unable to see how their proof becomes inadmissible because they have already, for a different purpose, been considered by another jury. Take as an illustration a case of counterfeit coin. Suppose a man passes a counterfeit half-crown, and on his trial, there being no proof of his having possession of any other counterfeit coin, the jury acquit. It is subsequently discovered that either before or after the passing of the one half-crown (in my opinion it matters not which) he has passed another counterfeit half-crown, and upon comparison of the two base coins they appear cast in the same mould. If tried for the secondly discovered case of uttering, the fact of the other uttering would be most cogent evidence, and the fact that when that other case was supposed to be an isolated one a jury had acquitted would neither detract from the weight of the evidence or in any way affect its admissibility, for the prisoner would not be being tried again for the offence of which he had been acquitted, but for a different offence, in respect of which the evidence given in the former case, or some of it, would be relevant . . .
I doubt whether the transaction with Ramsey was relevant on the subsequent indictment, but I am prepared to defer to the opinion of the majority of the court as to the mode in which the case should be dealt with, desiring only to express my clear opinion that, if the evidence was otherwise admissible, it is not the less so by reason of the former acquittal.’
Lord Russell of Killowen CJ, Mathew, Grantham, Wright, Darling and Channell JJ (Bruce and Ridley JJ dissenting)
[1900] 2 QB 758
England and Wales
Cited by:
CitedRegina v Terry CACD 21-Dec-2004
The prosecutor had a alleged a conspiracy basing the charge on a conversation in a car. The court rejected the admisibility of evidence of a voice recognition expert, and the defendant was acquitted on direction. He then said that in the absence of . .
CitedRegina v Z (Prior acquittal) HL 22-Jun-2000
The defendant on a charge of rape had been tried and acquitted of the rape of different women on three previous occasions in three separate trials. The prosecution wished to call those three complainants to give similar fact evidence in support of . .
DistinguishedG (An Infant) v Coltart 1967
The defendant was a domestic servant. She was charged in two separate prosecutions before justices with theft of property from her employer and from a a guest. The property was found in her room after the guest had left. The prosecution offered no . .

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Updated: 12 July 2021; Ref: scu.221710