When considering how to adduce apparently similar evidence, care is needed in deciding on what basis the evidence should be admitted or excluded.
The appellant was convicted of conspiracy to import cannabis and was sentenced to nine years imprisonment.
The case concerned 650kg of cannabis packaged in individual blocks that were seized at Heathrow Airport. The police searched a storage unit belonging to a co-defendant which contained drug paraphernalia. The case against the appellant was that he received money to facilitate the delivery of the cannabis.
An application was made by the Crown to adduce evidence found in the storage unit, in particular a metal press and a notebook. The defence objected to the application on the grounds that the items were irrelevant and prejudicial. The unit was not under the control of the appellant and the press had no relevance as the cannabis imported had already been pressed. The notebook, it was argued, was irrelevant as many of the entries pertained to 2011 and 2012 whereas the indicted period was 2013.
The Crown argued that the items were probative; the notebook had the appellant's fingerprints on both the inside and the outside and contained information which could be interpreted as being a dealer's list. The metal press, the prosecution contended, could be considered by the jury as being used for drugs.
The judge ruled that the Crown were entitled to put before the jury evidence which might otherwise be extrinsic if it went to an issue in the case. The judge took the view that the items were admissible as they had the potential to establish a connection between the appellant and cannabis dealing. This therefore addressed the defence case that the appellant had nothing to do with the importation of drugs.
It was argued on appeal that the evidence of the press and parts of the notebook should have been properly argued as bad character evidence and if it had, it would have been found to be inadmissible either because it would not have satisfied the gateways in s.101(1) CJA 2003 or because it would have satisfied s.101(3).
Allowing unedited bad character material (the notebook) to be improperly admitted, and not properly directing the jury about it, rendered the conviction unsafe.
Some sections of the notebook could have been admitted under s.98 of CJA 2003, but material between 2011 and 2012 was highly prejudicial, potentially misleading and should have been subject to a bad character application. Similarly, the press related to conduct which was outside of the period indicted.
The court concluded "what this case shows is the care that may be needed in deciding on what basis different types of apparently similar evidence should be admitted or excluded."
Conviction quashed and appeal upheld.
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