Regina v Sat-Bhambra: CACD 1989

The defendant was accused of importing heroin. He challenged use of his recorded interviews saying he was suffering hypoglycaemia from his diabetes at the time. The judge excluded later interviews for this reason, but the defendant challenged the use of the first few tapes since the doctor said he might be suffering in this way.
Held: Once the evidence had been heard, the judge had no continuing discretion to exclude under s76 or s78. His only remaining discretion was under s82(3) where he might exclude if the material was more prejudicial than probative. Lord Lane CJ: ‘First, were the answers given by the appellant upon the interviews properly to be described as a confession or confessions? Section 82(1) of the Act defines confession as follows: ”confession’ includes any statement wholly or partly adverse to the person who made it, whether made to a person in authority or not and whether made in words or otherwise.’ His answers upon the interviews, the tapes of which the jury heard, were, as his counsel described, exculpatory. Their principal damaging effect was to demonstrate that the appellant was evasive and prevaricating and that many of the statements which he made proved eventually to be false. The question therefore arises: can a statement be described as wholly or partly adverse to the person making it, when it is intended by the maker to be wholly exculpatory and appears to be so on its face, but becomes damaging at the trial because, for example, its contents can by then be shown to be evasive or false or inconsistent with the maker’s evidence on oath?
. . . The words of the section do seem prima facie to be speaking of statements adverse on the face of them. The section is aimed at excluding confessions obtained by words or deeds likely to render them unreliable, i.e. admissions or partial admissions contrary to the interests of the defendant and welcome to the interrogator. They can hardly have been aimed at statements containing nothing which the interrogator wished the defendant to say and nothing apparently adverse to the defendant’s interests. If the contentions of the appellant in the present case are correct, it would mean that the statement ‘I had nothing to do with it’ might in due course become a ‘confession’, which would be surprising, with or without section 82(1). . . . We are inclined to the view that purely exculpatory statements are not within the meaning of section 82(1). We are supported in this view by the learned author of Cross on Evidence, 6th ed., p 544. The same view is taken by Andrews and Hirst on Criminal Evidence, paragraph 19.04. They cite the words of Lord Widgery CJ in Pearce (1979) 69 Cr App R 365, where he says ‘A denial does not become an admission because it is inconsistent with another denial.’ . . . In so far as they express a contrary view we respectfully dissent from the views of the Supreme Court of Canada in Piche v R (1970) 11 DLR 700, and of Chief Justice Warren in Miranda v Arizona 384 U.S. 436, 477 (1975), where he said that such statements ‘are incriminating in any meaningful sense of the word.’ . . . However in the light of what we have to say hereafter, we do not need to come to any firm conclusion on this aspect of the case . . .’

. . . and as to the court’s powers: ‘He may, if he thinks that the matter is not capable of remedy by a direction, discharge the jury; he may direct the jury to disregard the statement; he may by way of direction point out to the jury matters which affect the weight of the confession and leave the matter in their hands.’


Lord Lane CJ


(1989) 88 Cr App R 55


Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 76 78 82(3)


England and Wales


CitedRegina v Pearce CACD 1979
Lord Widgery CJ said: ‘A denial does not become an admission because it is inconsistent with another denial.’ . .

Cited by:

AffirmedHasan, Regina v HL 17-Mar-2005
The House was asked two questions: the meaning of ‘confession’ for the purposes of section 76(1) of the 1984 Act, and as to the defence of duress. The defendant had been involved in burglary, being told his family would be harmed if he refused. The . .
AppliedRegina v Park CACD 1994
The defendant had been stopped by police officers whilst driving a car which contained property stolen in burglaries. The question arose whether a statement was a confession.
Held: The court applied the interpretation of section 82(1) . .
CitedRegina v Mushtaq HL 21-Apr-2005
The defendant was convicted of fraud charges. He sought to have excluded statements made in interview on the basis that they had been obtained by oppressive behaviour by the police. His wife was very seriously ill in hospital and he had made the . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Criminal Practice

Updated: 06 May 2022; Ref: scu.223674