People (Attorney General) v Wickham

JurisdictionIreland
CourtCourt of Criminal Appeal
Judgment Date01 Jan 1949

Court of Criminal Appeal.

The People (Attorney-General) v. Wickham
THE PEOPLE (at the suit of the Attorney-General)
and
MARTIN WICKHAM (1)

Criminal law - Evidence - Statement made by accused - Statement taken down in writing and read over to accused - Document orally acknowledged by accused to be correct - Refusal of accused to sign document - Document admissible in evidence notwithstanding no acknowledgment in writing.

Criminal, Appeal.

The applicant, Martin Wickham, was, on the 26th day of May, 1948, convicted at Wexford Circuit Court, before Judge Fawsitt and a jury, of having unlawful carnal knowledge of a girl over 15 and under 17 years of age contrary to sub-s. 1 of s. 2 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1935.

At the trial, the prosecution tendered in evidence a document which purported to be a record of a statement made by the accused which incriminated him. Counsel for the defence objected to the admission of this document because it was neither signed nor acknowledged by the accused in writing. The jury retired and the police officer who took the statement gave evidence of which the following is the material part:—

"Q.—Were you asking questions?

A.—What he said I wrote down. I explained to him about what the caution meant; that he need not make any statement but if he did make a statement I would take it down in writing and it might be used in evidence. He proceeded to make a statement and I wrote it down.

Q.—Did you read the statement over to him then?

A.—I did.

Judge—Was Sergeant Diffley present at this time?

A.—Yes.

Q.—When you read it over to him?

A.—Yes. I asked him did he want to make any alterations or corrections in it and he said: 'The statement is correct.'

Q.—What happened then?

A.—I asked him would he sign the statement and he said: 'I would rather see a solicitor before I would sign the statement.'

Q.—Was Sergeant Diffley present during the taking of the whole of that statement?

A.— Yes."

Counsel for the defence did not cross-examine and renewed his objection on the ground that the accused had not acknowledged the document as his document. The trial Judge admitted the document in evidence and the accused was convicted and sentenced to three years' penal servitude.

From this conviction and sentence the accused applied to the Court of Criminal Appeal for leave to appeal. The notice of application for leave to appeal set out the following grounds:—

1. The accused was prejudiced in his defence by the admission in evidence of a document purporting to be a statement made by the accused but neither signed by him nor acknowledged as his document.

2. The accused was prejudiced in his defence by the refusal of the learned trial Judge to tell the jury that there was no obligation on the accused to offer to the jury any explanation of the facts which they accepted, provided that there was a reasonable explanation consistent with the accused's innocence.

3. The accused was prejudiced in his defence by the failure of the learned trial Judge to put to the jury, in his charge, the interpretation of the facts contended for by the defence.

Accused after being arrested and after being properly cautioned made a statement to a police officer which...

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