Bhola v. The State Rev 1 (Trinidad and Tobago)  UKPC 9 (30 January 2006)
Vijai Bhola Appellant
The State Respondent
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REASONS FOR DECISION OF THE LORDS OF THE
JUDICIAL COMMITTEE OF THE PRIVY COUNCIL, OF THE
30th January 2006, Delivered the 8th March 2006
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Lord Bingham of Cornhill
Lord Scott of Foscote
Lord Walker of Gestingthorpe
Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood
"Notwithstanding the importance of good character evidence, it does not necessarily follow that a failure to lead such evidence or even the omission by the trial judge to direct the jury on the issue in his summation when the issue is raised, will result in the conviction being set aside (see Barrow v The State  AC 846 at 852)."
And a little later:
"[Although counsel was at fault], it does not necessarily follow ipso facto that there was a miscarriage of justice. Each case must depend on the particular circumstances. The question at the end of the day is whether the jury would necessarily have reached the same verdict if they had a full direction as to the appellant's good character."
"The prosecution's case depended to a great extent on the evidence of [Chaitlal]. His credibility was central to the main issue. The appellant's defence was that [Chaitlal] had fabricated the case against him. While it is true that the appellant's credibility was also equally critical, there was other strong evidence which would have had a negative effect on his credibility. The other appellant, Wiggins, admitted being in the car and was privy to the conversation between the appellant and Singh in connection with the coke that was found in his car. In fact Wiggins testified on oath that when the appellant told him that he had just made a big bust and Wiggins enquired about the nature of the bust the appellant told him that it was for coke. He further heard [Chaitlal] tell the appellant that he would pay anything to get out of that. Wiggins was obviously attempting to distance himself from any involvement in the crime. . . [I]t is quite apparent that the case against the appellant was an extremely strong one and Wiggins' evidence, apart from having an adverse effect on the appellant's credibility, boosted the case for the prosecution, premised as it was on joint enterprise. The appellant admitted his presence in the car and it is therefore unlikely that the jury, having disbelieved Wiggins that he was not a party to the crime and, by inference, having accepted that he was party to the big bust, in spite of Wiggins' good character, would have treated the appellant any differently. Significantly, Wiggins had joined the group in the car after the appellant had discovered the coke and had taken the initial steps in the commission of the offence."
In their Lordships' view there is really no basis for criticising the Court of Appeal's approach either to the law or to the evidence.
"[T]heir Lordships are of the opinion that a good character direction would have made no difference to the result in this case. The only question was whether it was the appellant who murdered the deceased or whether she was killed by an intruder. All the circumstantial evidence pointed to the conclusion that the appellant was the murderer. There was no evidence to suggest that anyone else was in the house that night who could have killed her or that anyone else had a motive for doing so. In these circumstances the issues about the appellant's propensity to violent conduct and his credibility, as to which a good character reference might have been of assistance, are wholly outweighed by the nature and coherence of the circumstantial evidence."
"[The jury] had the advantage of seeing and hearing [the appellant] when he gave evidence and of forming their judgment about his apparent credibility from his testimony and his demeanour. They also had the evidence of the eyewitness Mr McKennon and were able similarly to judge his credibility. Their Lordships do not wish in any way to minimise the importance of good character or of the proper direction being given by trial judges. They do consider, however, that in a case of the present type such a direction will be of less significance in assisting the jury to come to a correct conclusion than in other types of prosecution."
"The omission of a good character direction on credibility is not necessarily fatal to the fairness of the trial or to the safety of a conviction. Much may turn on the nature of and issues in a case, and on the other available evidence. The ends of justice are not on the whole well served by the laying down of hard, inflexible rules from which no departure may ever be tolerated. This was accordingly a case where, depending on the circumstances, the 'proviso' in section 44(1) of the Supreme Court of Judicature Act might have been applicable. In considering whether it was, the Court of Appeal was right to consider whether, properly directed, the jury would 'inevitably' (Woolmington v Director of Public Prosecutions  AC 462, 483) or 'without doubt' (Stirland v Director of Public Prosecutions  AC 315, 321) have convicted."
In the event the Board concluded at para 26:
"It was not a straightforward case. It cannot be said that, properly directed on the appellant's credibility, the jury would inevitably or without doubt have convicted."