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Character Evidence Notes

BPTC Law Notes > BPTC Criminal Litigation Notes

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A more recent version of these Character Evidence notes – written by City Law School students – is available here.

The following is a more accessble plain text extract of the PDF sample above, taken from our BPTC Criminal Litigation Notes. Due to the challenges of extracting text from PDFs, it will have odd formatting:

Character Evidence When to raise Character Directions?


You consider character witnesses at the start. For example, if D1 has bad character against him, but D2 and D3 are both of good character, they'll get good character directions, and D1 won't. D1 should seek separate trials on basis of "prejudiced or embarassed" by his BC. Unlikely to succeed due to R v Grondowski.


At the end of evidence, but before closing speeches so you know what to say!

Good Character


There can only be general character evidence, not of specific incidents or personal opinions.


R v Vye - Good character can prove:



Credibility (Mandatory if D give any evidence - interview, statements, testifies)


Lack of Propensity (Always mandatory, whether or not D gives evidence)

If D is of 'blemished character', a GC direction should be given even if:


Minor or long pat convictions;


No convictions but admits other criminality (eg: as alternative charge);


D has no convictions but is charged on multiple offences, and pleads G to a lesser one.

Bad Character



s98 CJA 2003 - "Evidence of, or disposition towards misconduct" other than that:


To do with the "facts of the offence"


To do with the "investigation or trial"

s112 CJA - Misconduct is "Commission of an offence or other reprehensible behaviour" ot

* Legitimate behaviour cannot be "reprehensible" however peculiar it is EG: In R v Weir attraction to young girls was not reprehensible.



This includes past acquittals because acquittal is procedural bar, not conclusive proof of innocence per R v Z and R v Renda.

If it falls outside of this definition, it is admissible.

Defendant's Bad Character Offences Committed when under 14 s108 CJA 2003 - Where D is 21yo+, and P wants to adduce offence committed when D was
<14yo, it is only admissible if both offences are triable only on indictment and the interests of justice require admission.

Evidence of D's bad character is admissible if, but only if: Leave of Court NOT required:

1. s101(1)(a) - Agreement of All Parties (P, D and co-D's).

2. s101(1)(b) - Blurts it Out - Evidence adduced by D a. D may wish to adduce it: b. To come clean about an 'old' conviction to get a good character direction; c.

To demonstrate D has never been convicted of a 'similar' offence for a good character direction;

d. To put forward that he has an alibi for the offence charged because he was in custody for another offence. Leave of Court IS required:

3. s101(1)(c) - Context - Important Explanatory Evidence a. s102 defines it as "important explanatory evidence" if i. Without it the court/jury would find it impossible or difficult to properly understand other evidence in the case; and;

ii. Its value for understanding the case as a whole is substantial. b. E.G.: In a "fleeting glanse" case, W recognised D running past because D was W's drug dealer per R v Edwards (Karl).

4. s101(1)(d) - Done it before Gateway - Important Matter in issue between P and D a. The principal matter in issue in criminal proceedings is whether D did the act or omission charged against him, and if he did whether he did so with the relevant state of mind (intentionally, recklessly, knowingly, wilfully, dishonestly, with fraudulent intent, etc.) or whether he did so by mistake, by accident, through inadvertence, or even in a state of automatism. If this is satisfied, must then turn to defences - Whether D did the act with the requisite intention but was acting in self-defence, duress, necessity, provocation (murder) or diminished responsibility (murder) b. s103 defines "important matter in issue" as including: (a) the question whether the defendant has a propensity to commit offences of the kind with which he is charged, except where his having such a propensity makes it no more likely that he is guilty of the offence; (b) the question whether the defendant has a propensity to be untruthful, except where it is not suggested that the defendant's case is untruthful in any respect. R v Hanson, P, Gilmour - Propensity to be untruthful is distinct from dishonesty. Thus, only when D pleads NG, but then jury disbelieve is this untruthful. (2) Where subsection (1)(a) applies, a defendant's propensity to commit offences of the kind with which he is charged may (without prejudice to any other way of doing so) be established by evidence that he has been convicted of---
(a) an offence of the same description as the one with which he is charged, or (b )an offence of the same category as the one with which he is charged. CJA 2003 (Categories of Offences) Order 2004: Offences related of a sexual nature (under 16s) Offences related to theft R v Weir - D charged with sexual assault on child under 13. Properly admitted caution for taking indecent photographs of a child even though not included in the Order. - This is because it "may (without prejudice to any other way of doing so)... NB: These have fallen out of favour, in favour of description test!
(3) Subsection (2) does not apply in the case of a particular defendant if the court is satisfied, by reason of the length of time since the conviction or for any other reason, that it would be unjust for it to apply in his case. (4) For the purposes of subsection (2)---

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