Thorpe v Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police: CA 1989

The plaintiff was arrested at a demonstration, charged with obstructing the highway and convicted before the magistrates. His conviction was quashed by the Crown Court on appeal. He sued for assault, unlawful arrest, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution. He sought discovery of documents showing any convictions of or adverse disciplinary findings against the police witnesses.
Held: He was not entitled to such discovery as the evidence would not be admissible.
Dillon LJ said: ‘I apprehend that Lord Denning MR [in Mood Music] was thinking of civil cases tried by a judge alone. Where there is a jury the court must be more careful about admitting evidence which is in truth merely prejudicial, than is necessary where there is a trial by a judge alone who is trained to distinguish between what is probative and what is not.’
Neill LJ said: ‘Evidence of ‘similar facts’ is relevant both in criminal and in civil cases to rebut defences such as accident or coincidence or sometimes to prove a system of conduct. Such evidence is not admissible, however, merely to show that the party concerned has a disposition to commit the conduct alleged.’


Dillon, Neill, Mustill LJJ


[1989] 1 WLR 665


England and Wales


CitedRegina v Boardman HL 1974
The defendant appealed the admission of similar fact evidence against him. Acts of buggery were alleged by a schoolmaster with boys in which the accused was the passive partner.
Held: In order to be admissible similar facts must bear a . .
CitedMood Music Publishing Co v De Wolfe Ltd CA 1976
The plaintiffs alleged breach of copyright case involving music and sought to have admitted in evidence similar fact evidence showing that the defendants had published music resembling material protected by copyright in the past. The defendant . .
CitedBerger v Raymond Sun Ltd 1984
The court distinguished the test of the admissibility of evidence of similar facts from the criteria according to which the court should exercise its discretion to exclude such evidence. He said that the test of admissibility was the same in civil . .

Cited by:

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 . .
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 . .
CitedJP Morgan Chase Bank and others v Springwell Navigation Corporation ComC 14-Mar-2005
The defendants had invested money through the claimants, but had suffered severe losses. The claimants sought a declaration that they had no liability for such losses. The defendants counterclaimed that the claimants were liable in negligence, . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Updated: 06 May 2022; Ref: scu.186049