September 27, 2013

Confessions allowed: Julian Francis v the Queen [2009] CCJ 9 (AJ)

Fri Sep 27, 2013

by Monique Scott, Norman Manley Law School

In the case of Julian Francis v The Queen, the CCJ had to referee a frequent battle in criminal trials over the use of confessions to prove guilt. In this battle, Francis was convicted and sentenced to six years imprisonment for stealing a motor car, where the prosecution’s case hinged on two confessions made to the police; one written and one oral.{{more}}

On appeal, Francis argued that it was wrong for the court to have allowed the confessions to be admitted into evidence. However, the CCJ found no merit in that argument and allowed his conviction and sentence to stand.

The Court firmly disagreed with Francis’ contention that his oral confession was wrongly admitted into evidence because the judge gave the police officer the chance to review his notes while the officer was on the witness stand. The CCJ found that it was acceptable, after meeting certain criteria, to allow a police officer to refer to his police notebook when giving testimony and that the policeman did not need to show that Francis had approved the notes by signing them. There was no unfairness to Francis by allowing the police to refresh his memory from the notebook. How else would he remember what exactly took place three years ago?

Francis was also unable to show that he did not freely give the written confession or that its use by the prosecution was unfair. While noting that it was usual that the two officers investigating the matter were not both called as witnesses, the omission to call one officer did not, by itself, show that the confession was not freely given. Francis seemed to have misunderstood the law, as his complaints about unfairness related to the conduct of the trial, namely, that he was not represented by an attorney and could not cross-examine both officers involved in taking the statement, instead of relating to the circumstances under which the confession was made.

Consequently, the Court found that the admission of the written confession was not wrong.

This summary is intended to assist the Caribbean public in learning more about the work of the CCJ. It is not a formal document of the Court. The judgment of the Court is the only authoritative document and may be found at http://chooseavirb.com/ccj/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/cr1_2008.pdf.