QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION
B e f o r e :
(The Lord Woolf of Barnes)
MR JUSTICE MACKAY
|DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC PROSECUTIONS||Respondents|
Smith Bernal, 190 Fleet Street, London EC4
Telephone No: 020-7421 4040
(Official Shorthand Writers to the Court)
appeared on behalf of THE APPELLANT
MR JONATHAN SANDIFORD (instructed by CPS Leeds)
appeared on behalf of THE RESPONDENT
Crown Copyright ©
Monday 24 November 2003
THE LORD CHIEF JUSTICE: I will ask Mr Justice Mackay to give the first judgment.
MR JUSTICE MACKAY:
"We find Stephen Tatterton's version of events the more compelling. He appeared happy, calm and unconcerned about [the appellant's] presence in the club, whereas [the appellant] had actively sought to come to the club, had a confrontation with his ex-girlfriend and was in a distressed and emotional state. He knew that Tatterton had been involved with his ex-girlfriend and he sought to attack Tatterton."
"We are satisfied that this was an act of aggression and not of self-defence. We therefore find Pearson guilty of this offence."
"Were the justices entitled to convict the appellant of an offence without referring in their reasons to the burden and standard of proof, particularly when self-defence had been raised as an issue?"
At the heart of the appellant's submissions on this question lies the proposition that the justices' reasons as stated in open court gave the appearance of applying the wrong test, similar to or approaching the balance of probabilities, by appearing to weigh up the two conflicting accounts of the main protagonists.
".... Justices do not have to state their reasons in the form of a judgment, reciting the charges, the evidence they have heard and all their findings of fact. The essence of the exercise in a criminal case such as this is to inform the defendant why he has been found guilty. That can usually be done in a few simple sentences."
"Were the justices entitled to convict the appellant when a number of prosecution witnesses' evidence was rejected as being inconsistent with the complainant's evidence?"
No separate oral submissions have been addressed to us today on this question, but it seems to me that it should be dealt with. The appellant complains that the justices purported to rely on the evidence of Miss Hurry, one of the witnesses in the complainant's group, although they stated that because of discrepancies in her account she was not a reliable witness in relation to the fight. None of the other witnesses called even claimed to have seen the fight. "Her account" in the sense described by the magistrates must mean her account of the fight itself. It was that part of her evidence which contained discrepancies and was therefore disregarded -- disregarded in the sense that it could cast no light on the central issue of fact as to whether the appellant attacked Mr Tatterton or vice versa. Both Miss Hurry and Mr Dawson had given potentially important evidence that Mr Tatterton's demeanour prior to these events had been "relaxed and happy" (in Miss Hurry's words) and "outwardly calm" (in those of Mr Dawson). The justices were not bound to accept or reject the entirety of any witness' evidence, it being a trite proposition that the credibility of a witness is not a seamless web. They were plainly entitled to reject, for example, Miss Hurry's evidence about the fight itself, but accept what she had to say about the events and the behaviour of the protagonists earlier that night. Their decision so to do cannot be categorised, in my judgment, as perverse or open to challenge in this court.
"Were the justices entitled to convict the appellant without making findings that the Crown had discharged its duty to establish that he was not acting in self-defence?"
Literally answered, it seems to me that the only answer could be that they were not so entitled to act. But the question as framed is not in my opinion helpfully posed. The respondent says that this is not what the justices did. In their reasons given in open court they expressly found that the Crown had so satisfied them by saying:
"We are satisfied that this was .... not self- defence."
It is suggested that it was somehow incumbent on them as part of their reasons to recite that they had considered what the appellant honestly and genuinely believed at the time he struck the complainant. In my judgment, this is an attempt to impose on the magistrates a duty as to how to express their decision in open court by setting out the full ingredients of the issue of self-defence, of dealing separately with each step of the process with reasons at each stage, which is a duty that ought not to be on them. It is not appropriate to place it as high as this. Nor was it on the facts of this case necessary for them to state what view they had formed on how exactly the course of the incident had unrolled and developed as it went on. There could be no criticism of their response to the evidence and to the reasons they gave for it.