P.J.L. Beaumont C.B.E., Q.C., Commissioner, sitting alone
The Attorney General
Miss S. O'Donnell, Crown Advocate.
Advocate C. Hall for the accused.
1. My reasons for refusing leave to the defence to call, by way of video link evidence, Witness D are two-fold. First, Advocate Hall on behalf of the defendant, handicapped to the extent that she has no witness statement or deposition from Witness D, but nevertheless has been able to outline to me what she understands this witness will be able to say. In my judgment it infringes the rule that evidence is not admissible to contradict answers given on cross-examination as to credit. In other words the answers going to credit cannot be impeached by the other party to the proceedings calling a witness to contradict the first witness on collateral matters, save for matters which fall within any of the well-defined exceptions which are detailed in the treatment of this topic by the learned editors of Archbold, which it is not contended have any application here. Collateral, this evidence certainly is. It goes to Witness A's credibility if at all, but furthermore, and fundamentally, it was raised with her, Witness A, when she gave evidence in this trial last week in but the most general terms. She denied the general suggestion put to her, it was not pursued with any particularity by way of detailing who, when or where, or indeed what about. So for Witness D now to be permitted to emerge to put flesh on the suggestion with detail that Witness A was not given the opportunity to deal with, and the Prosecution certainly not being given the opportunity to know any more than the bare details that the Court has been furnished with about this witness and his testimony, no opportunity to check his bona fide or who he purports to be, or the link with Witness A, would, in my judgment, unbalance this trial to the extent that it would not be right for the evidence to be admitted. In other words why the rule exists in the first place.
2. Second, there is also a practical reason why this evidence should not be admitted. We are now at the end of the evidence which will be, in all respects, save Witness D's, completed this afternoon with the witnesses, who I have given the defence permission to call by way of video link from Portugal, giving that evidence. The Court is told, however, that Witness D, if permitted to give evidence, would not be available today, and indeed would not be available to give evidence until 3:30pm tomorrow. That would result in the Court, in practical terms, having to adjourn for a whole day in order to accommodate this evidence. The Court has a duty to ensure that proceedings take place in an orderly and timely manner so as to ensure that the members of the public who undertake Jury service approach that duty without undue wastage of their time or with long, or no doubt frustrating, breaks which are no aid to concentration on the essential issues of which this evidence, if admitted, certainly would not form part of. Witness D has effectively presented the Court with a fait accompli and, in saying that, I exonerate either the defendant, or Advocate Hall on his behalf, for any responsibility for it. He, in effect, says I can only be available at 3:30pm tomorrow and that is an end to the matter. Again, that would, by virtue of the length of the adjournment that it would necessitate, potentially unbalance these proceedings which ought to proceed, as I have said already, in the most structured and timely fashion that the Court can arrange.
Archbold 2014 Edition.