R v Brown (Shenae Baffrene)

A jury should be left to consider alternative verdicts where there is evidence to support it, even if neither prosecution or defence ask the jury to consider it.

On the 8th November 2013, Shenae Baffrene was convicted of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm contrary to section 18 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861. Neither the prosecution nor the defence had requested a s.20 offence be left to the jury. She was sentenced to 24 months' imprisonment suspended for 2 years and ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £100. She appealed against conviction on the basis that:


The alternative verdict of unlawful wounding contrary to section 20 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861 should have been put before the jury. This would reflect the decision of the House of Lords in R v Coutts (Graham James) [2006] 1 WLR 2154, which concluded that:

"In a trial on indictment any obvious and viable alternative verdict should ordinarily be left to the jury if there were evidence to support it irrespective of the parties' wishes."
The case of R v Hodson [2009] EWCA Crim 1590 was also put forward to argue that alternative verdicts are particularly important where the offence charged required proof of specific intent and the alternative offence does not. It was held in Hodson, that there will be cases where it is necessary to leave the lesser offence as an alternative. This would avoid the situation where the jury is faced with the choice of convicting for the serious offence or acquitting altogether.

Held: The appeal was allowed. The conviction for wounding with intent was quashed and a conviction for unlawful wounding was substituted. The jury should have been given the opportunity to return a verdict of unlawful wounding in accordance with R v Coutts (Graham James) [2006] UKHL 39. It was open to the jury to decide which of the parties' facts they accepted and rejected. It was also open to the jury to reject the appellant's argument on self-defence or the suggestion that she wanted to kill the complainant.

The Court held that the initial sentence more accurately reflected an offence of unlawful wounding. However, it was decided that it would be appropriate to adjust the sentence to demonstrate the difference between a conviction for wounding with intent and unlawful wounding. As a result, the sentence was reduced to 18 months' imprisonment suspended for two years. The victim surcharge continued to apply.



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