CRIME — Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) — Fresh evidence — Evidence received at request of Crown — Whether court entitled to receive such evidence where purpose not to rebut fresh evidence introduced by appellant — Criminal Appeal Act 1968, s 23 (as amended by Criminal Appeal Act 1995, ss 4(1), 29, Sch 3)

R v Hanratty (deceased)

CA: Lord Woolf CJ, Mantell LJ and Leveson J: 10 May 2002

There was no reason why, on an appeal against conviction, the prosecution should not introduce fresh evidence which did not directly address the grounds of appeal and was intended to weaken the appeal. The overriding purpose of s 23 of the Criminal Appeal Act 1968 (as amended) was that the power to admit fresh evidence should be to assist the court in furthering the interests of justice.

The Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) so held in dismissing an appeal by James Hanratty, deceased, by his brother, Michael Hanratty, against his conviction on 17 February 1962 at Bedford Assizes, before Gorman J and a jury, of the murder of Michael Gregsten on 23 August 1961, when Valerie Storie was raped and also shot. He was sentenced to death. On 26 March 1999 the Criminal Cases Review Commission, having obtained DNA profiles from the seminal fluid found on Valerie Storie's knickers and from the exhumed body of James Hanratty, referred the conviction to the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) pursuant to s 13 of the Criminal Appeal Act 1995.

LORD WOOLF CJ, in the reserved judgment of the court, said that the complaints made on behalf of the appellant were based on non-disclosure for the purposes of the trial by the prosecution, fresh evidence which was not available at the trial and omissions from the summing up of directions which, by present-day standards, should have been included. In opposing the appeal the Crown unusually wished to rely on fresh evidence, in the form of DNA findings, which did not directly address the grounds of appeal but which the prosecution contended clearly established the guilt of the appellant, and it was conceded by counsel for the appellant that, should it transpire that all possibility of contamination could be excluded the DNA evidence pointed conclusively to James Hanratty having been both the murderer and the rapist. Counsel for the appellant submitted that if the Court of Appeal was not to exceed its role as a court of review it could only receive fresh evidence on behalf of the prosecution if that evidence was being relied upon to rebut fresh evidence introduced on the appeal by the appellant. He focused on s 23(2) of the 1968 Act and in particular the requirement in 23(2)(b) that the court in considering whether to receive fresh evidence should have regard to whether it appeared that the evidence might afford any ground for allowing the appeal. Their lordships did not accept that submission. S 23(2) was subordinate to s 23(1) which conferred a general discretion on the court to be exercised in the interests of justice. Accordingly, the DNA evidence was admissible. Their Lordships considered the possibility that the DNA samples had been contaminated but concluded that they had not been.
Appeal dismissed.

Appearances: Michael Mansfield QC and Henry Blaxland QC (Bindman & Partners) for the appellant; Nigel Sweeney QC, Mark Dennis and David Perry (Crown Prosecution Service, Headquarters) for the Crown.

Reported by: Clare Barsby, barrister.



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