Five Judge Court of Appeal Reviews Law on Good Character Directions

R v Hunter and Others [2015] EWCA Crim 631

A specially constituted five judge Court of Appeal today gave judgment in R v Hunter and Others, clarifying the scope of good character directions, which have become the subject of a significant volume of the applications made to the Court.

The panel, which included the Lord Chief Justice and both the President and Vice-President of the Queen's Bench Division, conducted a comprehensive review of the authorities in this area, and considered the impact on defendants of good character (or 'effective' good character) of the codification within the Criminal Justice Act 2003 of the law on the admissibility of evidence of bad character.  In particular, the Court found that, in cases where a defendant has no previous convictions but has admitted reprehensible conduct, the nature of the trial judge's discretion to give an 'effective' good character direction has changed: it is now "open textured", not (as the House of Lords had found in R v Aziz [1996] AC 41) "narrowly circumscribed".

Gwawr Thomas acted as junior counsel for one of the five appellants, having secured leave to appeal out of time.

The judgment can be read here.