DPP v Ping Lin

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
JudgeLord Wilberforce,Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest,Lord Hailsham of St. Marylebone,Lord Kilbrandon,Lord Salmon
Judgment Date29 July 1975
Judgment citation (vLex)[1975] UKHL J0729-1
Date29 July 1975
CourtHouse of Lords
Director of Public Prosecutions
(R)
and
Ping Lin
(A)

[1975] UKHL J0729-1

Lord Wilberforce

Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest

Lord Hailsham of St. Marylebone

Lord Kilbrandon

Lord Salmon

House of Lords

Upon Report from the Appellate Committee, to whom was referred the Cause Director of Public Prosecutions against Ping Lin (on Appeal from the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division)), That the Committee had heard Counsel, as well on Monday the 30th day of June last, as on Tuesday the 1st day of this instant July, upon the Petition and Appeal of Ping Lin, at present detained at Her Majesty's Prison, Maidstone in the County of Kent, praying, That the matter of the Order set forth in the Schedule thereto, namely, an Order of Her Majesty's Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) of the 26th of March 1975, might be reviewed before Her Majesty the Queen, in Her Court of Parliament, and that the said Order might be reversed, varied or altered, or that the Petitioner might have such other relief in the premises as to Her Majesty the Queen, in Her Court of Parliament, might seem meet; and Counsel having been heard on behalf of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Respondent to the said Appeal; and due consideration had this day of what was offered on either side in this Cause:

It is Ordered and Adjudged, by the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in the Court of Parliament of Her Majesty the Queen assembled. That the said Order of Her Majesty's Court of Appeal (Criminal Division), of the 26th day of March 1975, complained of in the said Appeal, be, and the same is hereby. Affirmed, and that the said Petition and Appeal be, and the same is hereby, dismissed this House.

Lord Wilberforce

My Lords,

1

I have had the advantage of reading in advance the opinions prepared by my noble and learned friends Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest and Lord Hailsham of St. Marylebone. I entirely agree with them and for the reasons they give I would dismiss the appeal.

Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest

My Lords,

2

In the judgment of the Privy Council (delivered by Lord Sumner) in Ibrahim v. Rex [1914] A.C. 599, it was said that it had long been established as a positive rule of English criminal law that no statement by an accused is admissible in evidence against him unless it is shewn by the prosecution to have been a voluntary statement. If an objection is made to the admission of evidence as to a statement made by an accused it will be for the judge to decide as to its admissibility. He will generally, in the absence of the jury, have to hear the testimony of witnesses in regard to the impugned evidence and in regard to the relevant surrounding circumstances. He will then decide whether the prosecution have shown that the statement was a voluntary statement. Lord Sumner explained or illustrated what he meant by a voluntary statement. He meant a voluntary statement "in the sense" that it had not been obtained either by fear of prejudice or hope of advantage, the fear being as he put it "exercised" by or the hope being "held out" by someone whom he described as a person in authority. No occasion arises in the present case to consider the meaning or the significance of the phrase "person in authority". The police officers in the present case were clearly within the designation of persons whom Lord Sumner had in mind.

3

The guidance given by Lord Sumner's words is in my view clear. From them the sense and the spirit of the rule can be readily comprehended. Particular words are merely the instruments chosen to convey meaning. For this purpose words are but servants. If by their use a clear meaning has been conveyed then their purpose has been achieved.

4

In the circumstances posed a judge must decide whether the prosecution have shewn that a statement was voluntary. His decision will generally be one of fact. He may perhaps in some cases before giving his decision derive help from a consideration or perusal of reported decisions but he will always remember that most of these reported decisions merely record what the ruling of another judge has been in another case and in the particular circumstances of that case and on the basis of its own particular facts. He will always remember also that considerations of space may often make it difficult to record in a report all the relevant circumstances and facts. A judge will often have to rule at times and in places which do not readily make it possible to consult copious authorities. This will be no disadvantage. What is a clear and straightforward rule need not be obscured by subtleties and complications. The rule is one which in a fair-minded way can readily be applied by a judge once he has clearly ascertained the facts.

5

The task of the judge will be to apply the spirit and intendment of the rule. Without being anchored to any particular words he will consider whether the statement of an accused was brought about by some hope or fear held out or caused by someone who could be classed as a person in authority. The judge will be ruling on admissibility and not (primarily at all events) on any question as to the propriety of the conduct of someone who conducted an interview or asked questions or as to the propriety or impropriety of something said or done. The judge will be ascertaining the facts as to what was said in an interview and not (primarily at all events) enquiring as to the motives or intentions of the person or persons who conducted an interview.

6

In my view it is not necessary, before a statement is held to be inadmissible because not shewn to have been voluntary, that it should be thought or held that there was impropriety in the conduct of the person to whom the statement was made. Whether there was or whether there was not, what has to be considered is whether a statement is shewn to have been voluntary rather than one brought about in one of the ways referred to. To this extent I would with respect diverge from what was said in R. v. Isequilla [1975] 1 All E.R. 77 though I consider that the decision in that case was entirely correct.

7

It seems to me that the point of law formulated and certified for the purposes of this appeal raises complications which are unnecessary. The point of low is expressed in the form of two questions and in the following terms:

"(1) In the case of a confession alleged to be inadmissible on the ground that it was obtained by an inducement emanating from a person in authority, is the test of admissibility: —

( a) whether what was said was capable of being an inducement and may on the evidence have been so regarded by the accused? or

( b) whether the Crown have proved that what was said by the person in authority either was not an inducement or was not intended by him to be one (he being guilty of no other relevant impropriety)?

(2) On the facts of this case, was the Court required to hold as a matter of law, that the admissions made by the appellant were not 'voluntary' and were inadmissible?"

8

The certified point of law poses therefore first a question as to which of two stated tests of admissibility is correct.

9

One stated alternative test is phrased as being whether what was said was capable of being an inducement and may on the evidence have been so regarded by the accused. The test is in my view much simpler than that. In considering whether the statement of an accused was brought about by hope or fear the judge will have to ascertain all the facts concerning the alleged and so called "inducement". If it is said to have consisted in something said by a person conducting an interview then the facts must be ascertained as to what was said and as to what were the circumstances. Then what was said must be considered in a commonsense way in the light of all the circumstances: and what was said must be given in a commonsense way the meaning which it would rationally be understood to have by the person to whom it was said.

10

The other stated alternative test itself introduces an alternative and is phrased as being whether the Crown have proved that what was said by the person in authority either was not an "inducement" or was not intended by him to be one (he being guilty of no other relevant impropriety). Again the test is in my view much simpler. The test is simply whether the Crown have proved that a statement made by an accused was voluntary in the sense that it was not obtained from him either because some person in authority "exercised" fear or prejudice or "held out" hope of advantage. Stated otherwise, was it as a result of something said or done by a person in authority that an accused was caused or led to make a statement: did he make it because he was caused to fear that he would be prejudiced if he did not or because he was caused to hope that he would have advantage if he did. The prosecution must show that the statement did not owe its origin to such a cause.

11

As the rule of the criminal law was recognised as long ago as in 1914 as then being a long established "positive" rule I see no necessity to reexamine or to reconsider the reasons which have been assigned as its justification or its basis (as to this see the speech of Lord Reid in Commissioners of Customs and Excise v. Harz and Power [1967] 1 A.C. 760 at p.820). The rule is clearly established. Though it was established in days long before an accused person could give evidence himself and in days when accused or convicted persons lacked many protections now available to them I do not think that a reconsideration or modification of the rule lies within the province of judicial decision.

12

The second certified part of the point of law which is raised poses the question whether on the facts of this case the court was required as a matter of law to hold that certain admissions made by the appellant were inadmissible. The facts which are relevant in this connection lie within a small compass. One charge against the appellant was that he and two others had conspired...

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