Crown Offers No Evidence after Critical Evidence Ruled to be Inadmissible
Our client was a young man of good character that was stopped as a passenger in a vehicle said to be driving suspiciously. The driver and passengers were searched and a small amount of cannabis was found on our client, as well as a knife.
The knife was under 3 inches long, meaning that possession of the knife per se was not an offence unless it was carried with the intention to injure another person.
The officers questioned our client outside the vehicle about why he carried the knife. The defendant stated he had researched the knife to confirm it was legal to carry in the UK before purchasing it, and that he had it for his protection. Unfortunately, case law states that carrying a weapon for your protection is tantamount to having the intention to injure another person. Importantly, the officers failed to caution our client before having this conversation with him. The questioning of our client in these circumstances was therefore in breach of PACE Codes of Conduct.
At the police station, our client put forward a prepared statement accepting possession of the cannabis and explaining other reasons he had for possessing the knife, including his belief that it was legal. He did not address his comment before caution due to the possibility of it being ruled inadmissible in Court as it was obtained in breach of PACE.
He was charged with possession of an offensive weapon and possession of cannabis. Following our representations, the possession of cannabis charge was sent back to the police station, and our client was offered a community resolution. This charge will therefore not appear on his criminal record.
His possession of an offensive weapon case was sent to the Crown Court for trial. We objected to the admissibility of the Crown’s key evidence: our client’s comment before caution in which he accepted that he possessed the knife for his protection. We made detailed written representations that there was no realistic prospect of conviction due to the questionable admissibility of the key and evidence. We also argued that it was not in the public interest to prosecute this client as he was of good character and was acting in good faith. We pointed to government statistics regarding the disproportionate number of arrests following stop and search of black males and urged the Crown to approach this case based on its unique circumstances.
In Court, the case was set down for an application to exclude the comment before caution. We submitted that the comment should be excluded under s.76(2) Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (‘PACE’) as a confession. In the alternative, we argued it should be excluded under s.78 of PACE on the basis that the circumstances in which the evidence was obtained were such as to render its use at trial to be unfair. Both of these arguments hinged on the fact that the evidence was obtained before caution, in breach of PACE Codes of Conduct, and was therefore unfair and unreliable.
The Court accepted our argument in relation to s.78 of PACE. The before-caution comment was ruled to be inadmissible. As a result, the Crown offered no evidence.
The client, a university student, can continue his life without any offences appearing on his criminal record. He was extremely pleased with this result.
Heidi Appleby attended the police station to represent this client. Phoebe Coleman was the solicitor with conduct of this case in the Crown Court. Alexandra Monaghan of Crucible Law was instructed Counsel. She provided excellent and committed representation throughout this case.