Thompson v The Queen: PC 16 Feb 1998

(Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) When a defendant is of good character, ie has no convictions of any relevance or significance, he is entitled to the benefit of a good character direction from the judge when summing up to the jury, tailored to fit the circumstances of the case. As to the significance of one error in the summing up, Lord Hutton noted that it was a brief observation in a lengthy summing-up and that the judge had not elaborated on the statement.
Lord Hutton discussed the need not to mention a voir dire to the jury: ‘It appears that it has been a common practice in the courts in the Caribbean for a trial judge to tell a jury that he or she has held that confessions are voluntary statements. However in England it is recognised that this practice should not be followed and that it constitutes an irregularity for the judge to inform the jury, which has been absent during the voire dire, that he or she has ruled that a confession is admissible. The reason why such a statement by the judge to the jury should not be made is because of the danger that the jury might be influenced by the judge’s view on admissibility in deciding the questions which are for them alone, namely, whether the confession had been made and, if so, whether it was truthful and reliable. Therefore their Lordships are of opinion that the practice should also cease in the Caribbean: see the judgment of the Board in Mitchell v The Queen [1998] UKPC 1; [1998] AC 695.’


Lord Hutton


[1998] UKPC 6, [1998] AC 811






AppliedRegina v Vye etc CACD 7-Apr-1993
Detailed guidance was given on good character directions, as to how and when they should be given, but: ‘Provided that the judge indicates to the jury the two respects in which good character may be relevant, ie credibility and propensity, this . .
AppliedRegina v Aziz; Regina v Tosun; Regina v Yorganci HL 16-Jun-1995
The defendant (one of three) relied upon his part exculpatory statement made in interview and did not give evidence. The judge said that his good character was relevant as to his own propensity, and the character of the others was relevant to their . .
AppliedMitchell v The Queen PC 24-Jan-1998
(Bahamas) The judge’s decision on a voire dire to determine the admissibility of a confession should not be revealed to the jury since it might cause unfair prejudice to the defendant by conveying the impression that the judge had reached a . .

Cited by:

CitedTeeluck and John v The State PC 23-Mar-2005
(Trinidad and Tobago) The defendant appealed against his conviction saying that his defence had been incompetent in having failed to require the judge to give a good character direction to the jury.
Held: The appeal was allowed. Recent cases . .
CitedKrishna v The State PC 6-Jul-2011
(Trinidad and Tobago) The applicant appealed against his conviction for murder, complaining as to the way a former co-accused had been allowed to give evidence and the admission of a confession, saying that he had been beaten by police officers.
CitedMcgeough, R v CANI 7-May-2013
The defendant appealed against his convictions, inter alia, for membership of a proscribed organisation. He said that the judge should not have admitted in evidence his application for asylum in Sweden which had included his declaration of . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Criminal Practice

Updated: 01 June 2022; Ref: scu.159289