People (Attorney General) v Sykes

CourtCourt of Criminal Appeal
Judgment Date31 July 1958
Date31 July 1958
The People (Attorney General) v. Sykes

Court of Criminal Appeal.

Criminal law - Practice - Arraignment - Several persons arraigned jointly - Charge of conspiracy - Plea of guilty by one accused in presence of jury - Postponement of trial of other accused - Whether made necessary by such plea of guilty - Whether such plea of guilty should properly be mentioned to jury - Inconsistent statements made by two accused - Neither statement incriminating other accused - Separate trials - Whether made necessary by such statements - Charges of housebreaking and larceny - Housebreaking implements and stolen goods found in premises occupied by all accused - Accused who had pleaded guilty found in possession thereof - Whether evidence of finding of housebreaking implements and stolen goods admissible against all accused - Matter found in clothing of accused similar to matter found on premises allegedly broken into - Omission of accused to explain presence of matter in his clothing - Such omission referred to by trial Judge in his charge - Whether such reference a misdirection.

The appellant S. was arraigned, together with J. and W., on charges of conspiracy to break and enter a post office, of housebreaking and larceny, and of receiving stolen goods. W. pleaded guilty both to conspiracy to break and enter and to housebreaking and larceny. S. and J. both pleaded not guilty on all counts. J. had previously made a statement in which he admitted having received some of the stolen goods from W. in circumstances from which the jury might reasonably infer that he knew at the time that the goods were stolen. This statement did not implicate S. in the housebreaking, but was inconsistent with S.'s own statement of his and J.'sjoint movements at or about the time of the housebreaking. Most of the stolen goods and some housebreaking implements were found in a flat occupied by S., J. and W., where W. was also arrested. S. and J. were arrested on the street a short distance from both the flat and the post office. Marks on the coats and material found in the folds of the trousers of S. andJ. were consistent with their having broken through the roof of the post office and ripped open a safe there where some of the stolen property was locked. The trial Judge in his charge referred to certain matter found inS.'s trouser-fold, and commented on his failure to explain its presence there.S. and J. were tried together, before a jury who had heard W.'s plea of guilty from the dock and had heard that plea referred to by prosecuting counsel in his address. Both S. and J. were convicted of housebreaking and larceny, and J. was convicted of receiving stolen goods. The trial Judge granted a certificate that the case was a fit case for appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeal.

Held, that the trial Judge was not obliged to postpone the trial of S.and J. by reason of W.'s plea of guilty to conspiracy becoming known to the jury, as the evidence of conspiracy was entirely a matter of inference from the evidence of facts and circumstances adduced connecting the accused with the substantive offences;

2, that the fact that the statements of S. and J. could not both be wholly true was not a ground for allowing separate trials, in view of the fact that the statement of neither tended to incriminate or to inculpate the other.

3, that the evidence of the finding of the stolen goods and the housebreaking implements in the flat was relevant and admissible as part of the proof of the larceny;

4, that, in the light of the charge as a whole, the trial Judge's comment that S. had omitted to explain the presence of the material in his trouser-fold could not reasonably have led the jury to believe that the onus of proof had been shifted from the prosecution so as to impose any obligation onS. to account for the presence of the material in his trouser-fold.

Criminal Appeal.

The appellant and two other men, James and William Quigley, none of whom was represented, were indicted on

four counts, namely: 1. Conspiracy to break and enter the Post Office at 338 North Circular Road, Dublin. 2. Housebreaking and larceny of postage and other stamps, cash and other property to the value of £282 13s. 3d. from the Post Office. 3. Receiving the said property, knowing same to have been stolen. 4. Malicious damage to the Post Office.

William Quigley pleaded guilty to counts 1, 2 and 4 of the indictment and a nolle prosequi was consequently entered against him in respect of count 3. The appellant and James Quigley pleaded not guilty to all charges, and the trial proceeded forthwith, before the President of the Circuit Court and a jury, the jury having heard William Quigley plead guilty to the three charges, including that of conspiracy, and having heard prosecuting counsel refer to such plea in his opening address to them. The appellant and James Quigley were both acquitted by direction of the charges of conspiracy...

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