Rex v Canny: 1945

Discussing the need for a judge not to sum up too strongly against a defendant: ‘in England a man is entitled to a fair trial by jury on any offence which is indictable. It does not matter how absurd the defence is, or how unlikely it is that any sensible person would pay the least attention to it. A prisoner is entitled to make his defence to the jury, and it is for the jury and not for the Judge to decide on its weight. The Judge has no power to stop a defence and say: ‘This is an absurd defence and I will not let you put it before the jury’. When we find that the learned Judge, owing entirely to the initial mistake, has really prevented the jury from trying the prisoner fairly and squarely on the evidence by repeating over and over again: ‘This is an absurd defence, there is no foundation for this allegation against his wife, and the truth is, as you will find in a minute, that the prisoner did assault his wife’, that is not a trial at all according to our methods and understanding. It is a mistrial. We find it quite impossible to say, if this incident had not happened and if the jury had been properly directed, what they would have done, and we cannot speculate. What we do know is that the law of this country is that a prisoner is entitled to take his chance of finding a stupid jury and is entitled to put his defence before the jury with a view to persuading them to acquit him.’
Humphreys J
(1945) 30 Cr App R 143
Cited by:

  • Cited – Regina v Derek William Bentley (Deceased) CACD 30-Jul-1998
    The defendant had been convicted of murder in 1952, and hung. A court hearing an appeal after many years must apply laws from different eras to different aspects. The law of the offence (of murder) to be applied was that at the time of the offence. . .
    Times 31-Jul-98, [1998] EWCA Crim 2516, (2001) 1 Cr App R 307

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Updated: 09 December 2020; Ref: scu.192077