Regina 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 the new charge.
Held: Similar fact evidence was not inadmissible only because it tended to show that the defendant was guilty of other offences of which he had in fact been acquitted. Provided that the principle of double jeopardy was not offended, such evidence might be admitted. Here although the facts were similar, the trial related to a different set of facts and there was no element of re-trial for the earlier matters. ‘Similar facts are admissible because they are relevant to the proof of the defendant’s guilt. The evidence relating to one incident taken in isolation may be unconvincing. It may depend upon a straight conflict of evidence between two people. It may leave open seemingly plausible explanations. The guilt of the defendant may not be proved beyond reasonable doubt. But, when evidence is given of a number of similar incidents, the position may be changed. The evidence of the defendant’s guilt may become overwhelming. The fact that a number of witnesses come forward and without collusion give a similar account of the defendant’s behaviour may give credit to the evidence of each of them and discredit the denials of the defendant. Evidence of system may negative a defence of accident. This is the simple truth upon which similar fact evidence is admitted: it has probative value and is not merely prejudicial.’


Lord Hobhouse of Woodborough


Times 23-Jun-2000, Gazette 13-Jul-2000, [2000] 2 AC 483, [2000] UKHL 68, [2001] Crim LR 222, [2000] 2 Cr App R 281, [2000] 3 All ER 385, (2000) 164 JP 533, [2000] 3 WLR 117


House of Lords, Bailii


Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 78


England and Wales


Appeal fromRegina v Z (Prior Acquittal) CACD 14-Dec-1999
Where a defendant has previously been acquitted of an offence, the prosecution was not merely prevented from issuing a complaint based upon the same facts, but also was not able to present the facts alleged before a later court as evidence of . .
CitedRegina v Wilmot CACD 1989
Wilmot was charged with a series of six predatory rapes, committed by picking up women, some prostitutes, in one or other of two cars. The court considered the cross admissibility of similar fact evidence.
Held: Glidewell LJ said: ‘It has been . .
CitedSambasivam v Director of Public Prosecutions, Federation of Malaya PC 1950
(Malaya) The effect of a verdict of acquittal pronounced by a competent court after a lawful trial is not restricted to the fact that the person acquitted cannot be tried again for the same offence. It is binding and conclusive in all subsequent . .
CitedRegina 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 . .
CitedDirector of Public Prosecutions v Humphrys HL 1977
Humphrys was charged with driving while disqualified. The issue was the correctness of the identification by a police constable. In evidence, Humphrys denied that he was the driver, or indeed that he had driven any car during the year in question. . .
CitedWemyss v Hopkins 1875
The defendant had been convicted under a statutory offence, on the basis that as a driver of a carriage he had struck a horse ridden by the prosecutor causing hurt and damage to the prosecutor. He was then summoned again for what appeared to be a . .
CitedConnelly v Director of Public Prosecutions HL 1964
Plea of Autrefois Acquit is Narrow in Scope
The defendant had been tried for and acquitted of murder. The prosecution then sought to have him tried for robbery out of the same alleged facts. The House considered his plea of autrefois convict.
Held: The majority identified a narrow . .
CitedG (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 . .
CitedRegina v Riebold QBD 1967
When looking at a plea of autrefois acquit, the court had to ask whether there were any exceptional circumstances which would make it not oppressive to grant the prosecution leave to proceed.
Barry J said: ‘I feel that I am bound to apply . .
CitedRegina v Hay CACD 1983
The court considered the effect of a prior acquittal when the Crown on a subsequent prosecution sought to rely on part of a confession, the other part of which the earlier jury had not accepted. . .
CitedRegina v Beedie CACD 11-Mar-1997
Stay for Extended Autrefois Convict
The plea of autrefois convict applies only if the legal substance of the charges is same but the judge has a discretion. The plea is not limited to Connelly v DPP definitions, but is still narrow.
A 19-year-old girl died of carbon monoxide . .

Cited by:

CitedRegina v Z (Prior Acquittal) CACD 14-Dec-1999
Where a defendant has previously been acquitted of an offence, the prosecution was not merely prevented from issuing a complaint based upon the same facts, but also was not able to present the facts alleged before a later court as evidence of . .
CitedO’Brien v Chief Constable of the South Wales Police CA 23-Jul-2003
The claimant sought damages for malicious prosecution, and sought to adduce similar fact evidence. The defendant appealed an order admitting the evidence.
Held: Comparisons between admission of similar fact evidence in civil and criminal . .
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 . .
CitedO’Brien v Chief Constable of South Wales Police HL 28-Apr-2005
The claimant sought damages against the police, and wanted to bring in evidence of previous misconduct by the officers on a similar fact basis. They had been imprisoned and held for several years based upon admissions which they said they had . .
CitedRegina v Smith, D CACD 21-Dec-2005
The defendant appealed his conviction for five counts of gross indecency with a child, complaining that the court had admitted as evidence of propensity, the fact that other allegations had been made against him.
Held: The allegations were . .
CitedDr D, Regina (on the Application of) v Secretary of State for Health CA 19-Jul-2006
The doctor complained of the use of Alert letters where he was suspected of sexual abuse of patients, but the allegations were unsubstantiated. He complained particularly that he had been acquitted in a criminal court and then also by the . .
CitedRegina v Robinson CACD 23-Mar-2011
Earlier Acquittal not for mention on retrial
The defendant appealed against several convictions for serious ‘historic’ sex abuse. He said that there was insufficient evidence before the court to decide that the complainant had been under 14 at the time, and that any consent was vitiated. He . .
CitedWynes, Regina v CACD 21-Nov-2014
The defendant appealed against his convictions for the sexual assault of a child, saying that the court had wrongly admitted evidence of a previous conviction for possession of an indecent photograph. That conviction had been on an agreed basis and . .
CitedMitchell, Regina v SC 19-Oct-2016
Appeal against conviction for murder. Evidence was agreed with her representatives as to previous acts using knives, but was presented despite withdrawal by her of her consent. The prosecution now appealed against the quashing of the conviction.
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Criminal Evidence

Updated: 14 June 2022; Ref: scu.88714