New Judgment: R v Mitchell (Northern Ireland)  UKSC 55
19 Wednesday Oct 2016
On appeal from:  NICA 34
The respondent was convicted of the murder of her former partner. At trial she said that she had acted in self-defence. The prosecution applied to adduce evidence of bad character for the purpose of showing that she had a propensity to use knives. The judge directed the jury to take this evidence into account or leave it out as they considered appropriate. On appeal, the respondent argued that the trial judge had failed to direct the jury properly on the purpose of the bad character evidence or the standard of proof; the Court of Appeal allowed her appeal and quashed her conviction for murder. The prosecution appealed to the Supreme Court against the quashing of the murder conviction, unanimously dismissing the appeal and upholding the decision of the Court of Appeal. The proper issue for the jury in a case such as this is whether they are sure, beyond reasonable doubt, that the propensity has been proved. The jury is entitled to – and should – consider the evidence about propensity in the round [cf paras 43; Lord Kerr]. The Supreme Court emphasises however that propensity is at most an incidental issue. It should be made clear to the jury that the most important evidence is that which bears directly on the guilt or innocence of the accused person, propensity cannot alone establish guilt [cf paras 55; Lord Kerr].
For judgment, please download:  UKSC 55
For Court’s press summary, please download: Court’s Press Summary
For a non-PDF version of the judgment, please visit: BAILII
To watch the hearing, please visit: Supreme Court website (7 July 2016 morning session)