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Evidence Practice And Principles Unreliable Evidence Accomplice Evidence Notes

BCL Law Notes > Evidence II: Practice and Principles Notes

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UNRELIABLE EVIDENCE
ACCOMPLICE EVIDENCE

A former criminal associate of the person(S) on trial

They then become a witness for the State against their former comrades
High risk of unreliability and fabricationOnly applies where an accomplice is testifying for the prosecution

Why so unreliable?
➢ Criminal past - propensity, probably has been cornered by police and either is facing charges, may hope to gain preferential treatment by giving this evidence thus their motivation is to give evidence that the state wants to hear, they also may hold grudges against their former accomplice.

MANDATORY NATURE OF CORROBORATION WARNINGS

Unlike sexual offences - mandatory warning where there is accomplice evidence

HoweverProsecution can demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt that the witness is not an accomplice, thus avoiding the mandatory warning in respect of their evidence

Dental Board v O'Callaghan [1969] 1 IR 181
ButlerThe rule is not that uncorroborated evidence of an accomplice must be rejected or is inadmissibleThe rule is that the jury must 'clearly bear in mind and be warned that t is dangerous to convict upon the evidence of an accomplice unless it is corroborated.'Free to convict but know it is dangerous - like sex evidence.

RATIONALE:
R v Farler 1837
Lord Arbinger C.B.'When a man is fixed, and knows that his own guilty is detected, he purchases impunity by falsely accusing others'

R v Green 1825
Jebb J

Although the testimony of an accomplice alone is legal evidence on which a jury may convict, an instance is rarely found in which a jury will be satisfied to convict upon

Why?Because he stands in so degraded a state, from the crimes of which he confesses himself guilty…little credit is due to himthe temptation to save his own life is so strong, that he can seldom be trustedUnless corroborated in some material circumstances.

While the temptation contemporarily is not to save ones life, it is to save one's own skin from the consequences of conviction or implication. Most people are selfish enough to throw their accomplice under the bus by giving evidence and sacrificing their partner in crime by providing corroborative evidence for an otherwise weak prosecution case. This does not mean their evidence is true, though -
they have the most justifiable and understandable reasons for completely lying.
People (AG) v Phelan [1950] 1 Frewen 98
Maguire CJThe accomplice knows all the details of the crime and will be able to relate them accuratelyin order to involve another person (he/she) has only to introduce him into the story which in its main essentials, is true.

May give a version of events that is supported by direct or corroborative evidence and just insert the other person, manufacturing that person's role in the story. They are in the position do this as they know the details, as Maguire points out.
DPP v Fitzgerald [2018] IESC 58
Charleton J
Experience has shown that an accomplice may:put people in the frame as perpetrators of a crime who may not have been involved at allmay exaggerate the role of a particular accused

or

this is especially so considering thekind of bitterness that typifies relationships within a criminal gang.

Act of revenge risk

CASE LAW - WHO IS AN ACCOMPLICE/ ELEMENTS OF THE WARNING

cases from late 1920s/ early 30s - backdrop of social attitudes to birth of children outside wedlock. What if the alleged 'accomplice' was acquitted?
Attorney General v Linehan 1929 1 IR 19
A New-born baby found w a fractured skull in a boghole - had clearly given birth and attempted to kill child and abandon it. The law and social attitudes probably created incentives to do so - the attitudes, stigma and consequences in terms of ostracization and institutionalisation so strong that there were quite significant drivers to motivate someone to murder their infant, but that's an aside
The gardai arrested Hannah Linehan and charged her with the murder of the infant. Told the Gardai she'd given birth to it, but it was born dead and she put it in the Boghole
On trial, she said her grandmother - Mary - had killed the New-born by choking it. Hannah then acquitted at trial and the Garda turned their attention on the grandmother.
At Mary's trial - Hannah was the principle witness. She gave evidence that her grandmother killed the child and pressured her to say she was guilty and gave her a pound in return - inducement.
Appealed and argued that the judge should've given a corroboration warning in relation to Hannah's evidence.
Kennedy CJ
But was Hannah an accomplice in the legal sense? Accomplice means they helped out in the crime,
but Hannah was entirely acquitted thus she was not technically an accomplice.The law should not prefer a narrow or precise definition of accomplice in terms of when warnings should be given.A person implicated either as a principle or as accessory in the crime…is an 'accomplice'
within the ruleHowever, the degree and gravity of such complicity may vary, and the credit of the witness and the weight of their uncorroborated testimony will vary in accordance with the degree of their complicity 'so should the degree and gravity of the warning be measured.'Not all warnings are created equally - the warning must be contextualized and related to the facts of the case and some will require stronger warnings than others - the same for sex offences.

In relation to Hannah:She was acquitted yes, but her evidence concerning the grandmother 'is but a repetition of the evidence by which she secured her own acquittal.'In any event - whether the jury believes that the baby was born alive or born dead - she was implicated in the crime to the extent that she was an accomplice within the meaning of the ruleHer evidence on the main facts is practically wholly uncorroborated

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