In a case where the participants were of good character the Judge properly gave a good character direction to the Defendant but then chose to make a positive comment about the Prosecution witness as he wanted in his words “to level the playing field ”
The Court found this was wholly wrong concluding
- In considering the helpful arguments of counsel, we considered that in the vast majority of cases, it will be positively undesirable to direct a jury in the manner in which the judge did in this case. The burden of proving guilt, so that the jury is sure, is on the Crown. One element of our procedure in securing that a jury has to be sure of the guilt of an accused person of good character, before convicting him or her, is to direct the jury that his or her good character is a matter that they must bear in mind, in the accused’s favour, in two respects: first, with regard to his or her credibility; and secondly, as suggesting that it might be less likely than otherwise might be the case that he or she should commit an offence now. Those elements in an accused person’s favour are expressly stated to each jury. Unless a jury hears (for good reason) that a Crown witness is not of good character, they will no doubt assume that there is nothing to speak against his or her credibility.
- We consider that, in all but a very exceptional case (of which we can think presently of no examples), judges should refrain from directing juries in the manner that the judge did in this case. We think that Mr Sergent is right in saying that, to do so, is to “water
- down” a protection that our procedure affords to an accused person of good character, and to reduce, to that limited extent, the burden of proof on the Crown. In our judgment, this was a material error in the summing-up.