Understanding the Law
March 30, 2007
What is PACE? Pt-2

Last week, a short synopsis of PACE, the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, was given. The use of the Act in the case of Thompson v the Queen was also looked at. This week we will continue to look at some more of the discussion on the issues that were considered by the Privy Council.

As mentioned in the last article, the appellant raised a new issue concerning the applicability of PACE, that is, whether at the date of the trial the admissibility of the confessions of the appellant was governed, not by the Judges’ Rules and the Common Law test of voluntariness,” but by PACE. The trial judge in the Thompson’s case had looked at both instead of PACE. Since no consideration was given to PACE in the trial and the first judgment of the Court of Appeal the Privy Council put two questions before the Court of Appeal for its consideration. The Court of Appeal answered these questions in a second judgment.{{more}}

Questions for the Court of Appeal

1. Whether and if so to what extent: (i) section 3 of the Evidence Act 1988 (Cap 158 of the Laws of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and /or (ii) sections 5 and 6 of the Application of English Law Act 1989 (Cap 8 of the Laws of St. Vincent and the Grenadines) and/or (iii) any other law of St. Vincent and the Grenadines import into (or exclude from) the law of St. Vincent and the Grenadines the provision or any provisions of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 applicable in England both generally and as they relate to the admissibility of evidence in criminal proceedings and

2. If and in so far as such provisions apply in St. Vincent and the Grenadines what is their effect in the present case.

In the judgment of February,16th 1998 the Privy Council looked at the second judgment of the Court of Appeal and the arguments put forward by counsel for the appellant and came to the decision that the confessions by the appellant were admissible.

Privy Council’s conclusion

Their Lordships concluded that sections 76 and 78 but not Code C of PACE applied to St. Vincent and the Grenadines. However, the Court of Appeal thought that the codes were imported but required some modifications to take note of the circumstances in the jurisdiction. Their Lordships of the Privy Council further stated that sections 76 and 78 of the Act were closely linked to Code C. They felt that the codes had made an important and beneficial contribution to criminal justice in England. However, they observed that “questions of difficulty and complexity could arise as to whether there is a provision in the local law governing an evidential issue which appears to be in conflict with a provision of PACE of a PACE Code so that the latter would not apply, or whether an English provision would be applicable as supplementing a local provision”. Whilst suggesting that it was a matter for the appropriate authorities, their Lordships considered that “.it would be of a great benefit to the administration of criminal justice and for the avoidance of uncertainty , if specific statutory regulations were to be made ….based on the PACE Codes in England but suitably modified and adapted to take account of the different prevailing in that jurisdiction”.

• Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.

E-mail address is: exploringthelaw@yahoo.com