Wednesday, November 17, 2004

High Court Latest: Criminal Appeal Dismissed

In other news from the High Court today, the court dismissed an appeal against conviction in which the appellant claimed that the trial judge was in error in failing to give the jury a warning about the unreliabilty of accomplice testimony. See Jenkins v The Queen [2004] HCA 57

Among other things, the High Court said this:

If there is an issue which the jury might have to resolve in order to reach a verdict of guilty, and an accomplice's evidence relates to that issue, an accomplice warning must be given if the acceptance of that evidence is or could be a step taken by the jury in reasoning to a finding of guilt. Ordinarily it would be expected that the use to which the accomplice's evidence may be put will be apparent from the examination or cross-examination of the accomplice, or at least from what is said in closing addresses to the jury. That course of evidence, or the addresses, will reveal whether accepting the accomplice's evidence could be a step which the jury would take along the path to a guilty verdict. If the evidence of an accomplice is not controverted, there will be no issue to which the accomplice's evidence relates and which the jury will, or may, resolve in reasoning to a verdict of guilty. In that latter case no accomplice warning will be necessary. It will not be necessary because there is no issue for the jury to decide to which the instruction could relate.

Since the alleged accomplice's testimony did not go to issues in dispute, a warning was not necessary, and the appeal was unanimously dismissed by Gleeson CJ, Gummow, Hayne, Callinan and Heydon JJ.