O'Neill (Charles Bernard) v HM Advocate

Court:Supreme Court
Docket Number:No 16
Judge:Lord Hope, Lord Kerr, Lord Wilson, Lord Hughes, Lord Toulson
Judgment Date:13 Jun 2013
Jurisdiction:Scotland
Neutral Citation:2013 SCCR 401, [2013] UKSC 36

[2013] UKSC 36

THE SUPREME COURT

Trinity Term

On appeal from: [2012] HCJAC 51; [2012] HCJAC 20

Before

Lord Hope, Deputy President

Lord Kerr

Lord Wilson

Lord Hughes

Lord Toulson

O'Neill No 2
(Appellant)
and
Her Majesty's Advocate
(Respondent) (Scotland)
Lauchlan (AP)
(appellant)
and
Her Majesty's Advocate
(respondent) (scotland)

Appellant (O 'Neill)

John Carroll

Liam Ewing

Ann Ogg

(Instructed by Drummond Miller LLP)

Respondent

Dorothy Bain QC

Douglas Fairley QC

Susanne Tanner

(Instructed by The Appeals Unit, Crown Office)

Appellant (Lauchlan)

William McVicar

Gerard Considine

Liam O'Donnell

(Instructed by Fitzpatrick and Co)

Respondent

Dorothy Bain QC

Douglas Fairley QC

Susanne Tanner

(Instructed by The Appeals Unit Crown Office)

Heard on 29 and 30 April 2013

Lord Hope (with whom Lord Kerr, Lord Wilson, Lord HughesandLord Toulsonagree)

1

On 10 June 2010 the appellants, William Hugh Lauchlan and Charles Bernard O'Neill, were found guilty in the High Court of Justiciary at Glasgow of the murder of Mrs Allison McGarrigle between 21 June and 1 September 1997, and of a subsequent attempt to defeat the ends of justice by disposing of her body at sea. The charges of which they were convicted in that trial had been separated from a number of charges on the same indictment of or relating to sexual offences against children. Their trial on the sexual offence charges took place before Lord Pentland between 26 April and 12 May 2010. Their trial on the murder charges, which is the trial to which this appeal relates, took place (between 17 May and 10 June 2010) before the same judge but with a different jury. The appellants were sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder, with punishment parts of 26 and 30 years respectively, and to concurrent sentences of eight years imprisonment for attempting to defeat the ends of justice.

2

The appellants both appealed against their convictions at the second trial and against their sentences. Lauchlan was granted leave to appeal against his conviction for murder by the sifting judges, but this was restricted to two grounds alleging errors by the trial judge. He was also given leave to appeal against sentence. O'Neill too was granted leave to appeal against sentence, but the sifting judges refused him leave to appeal against his conviction for murder. The appellants applied under section 107(8) of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995 ("the 1995 Act") for leave to appeal against their convictions for murder on certain grounds which the sifting judges had held were unarguable. On 8 February 2012 Lauchlan was refused leave to appeal on those grounds by the Appeal Court. O'Neill was given leave to appeal on one ground only which alleged an error by the trial judge: [2012] HCJAC 20.

3

The appellants then applied for leave to appeal to this court under paragraph 13 of Schedule 6 to the Scotland Act 1998 on some of the grounds on which they were refused leave on 8 February 2012. On 19 April 2012 the Appeal Court (Lord Justice Clerk Gill, Lord Hodge and Lord McEwan) gave both appellants leave to appeal on a ground alleging undue delay. It gave O'Neill leave on another ground alleging apparent bias on the part of the trial judge arising out of things that had happened in the presence of the jury at the end of the first trial: [2012] HCJAC 51. The trial judge had been shown a list of the appellants' previous convictions after they had been found guilty of the sexual offence charges, and he then made a comment about their character, having regard to their records and the nature of the offences of which they had been convicted.

Jurisdiction
4

This court has jurisdiction to hear appeals in relation to criminal proceedings in the High Court of Justiciary under Part II of Schedule 6 to the Scotland Act 1998 ("the 1998 Act"). The opening paragraph of Part II is in these terms:

"3. This Part of this Schedule applies in relation to devolution issues in proceedings in Scotland."

The expression "devolution issue" is defined in paragraph 1 of Schedule 6, which provides:

"1. In this Schedule 'devolution issue' means-

(a) a question whether an Act of the Scottish Parliament or any provision of an Act of the Scottish Parliament is within the legislative competence of the Parliament,

(b) a question whether any function (being a function which any person has purported, or is proposing, to exercise) is a function of the Scottish Ministers, the First Minister or the Lord Advocate,

(c) a question whether the purported or proposed exercise of a function by a member of the Scottish Government is, or would be, within devolved competence,

(d) a question whether a purported or proposed exercise of a function by a member of the Scottish Government is, or would be, incompatible with any of the Convention rights or with EU law,

(e) a question whether a failure to act by a member of the Scottish Government is incompatible with any of the Convention rights or with EU law,

(f) any other question about whether a function is exercisable within devolved competence or in or as regards Scotland and any other question arising by virtue of this Act about reserved matters."

5

The Scotland Act 2012 ("the 2012 Act") made a number of important changes to this court's jurisdiction to deal with devolution issues under Schedule 6 to the 1998 Act. They came into effect on 22 April 2013: The Scotland Act 2012 (Commencement No 3) Order 2013 (2013/6 (C1). This is also the relevant date for the purposes of The Scotland Act 2012 (Transitional and Consequential Provisions) Order 2013 (2013/7 (S1)) ("the 2013 Order"): see article 1(2) of that Order. This appeal was heard one week later on 29 and 30 April 2013. Section 36(4) of the 2012 Act provides:

"In paragraph 1 of Schedule 6 (devolution issues), after sub-paragraph (f) insert –

'But a question arising in criminal proceedings in Scotland that would, apart from this paragraph, be a devolution issue is not a devolution issue if (however formulated) it relates to the compatibility with any of the Convention rights or with EU law of

(a) an Act of the Scottish Parliament or any provision of an Act of the Scottish Parliament,

(b) a function,

(c) the purported or proposed exercise of a function,

(d) a failure to act.'"

6

The effect of the exclusion of questions of the kind referred in section 36(4) of the 2012 Act from the list of devolution issues in paragraph 1 of Schedule 6 to the 1998 Act is that these questions must now be dealt with as compatibility issues under the 1995 Act. Section 288ZA(2), which was inserted into the 1995 Act by section 34(3) of the 2012 Act, provides that "compatibility issue" means

"a question, arising in criminal proceedings, as to –

(a) whether a public authority has acted (or proposes to act) –

(i) in a way which is made unlawful by section 6(1) of the Human Rights Act 1998, or

(ii) in a way which is incompatible with EU law, or

(b) whether an Act of the Scottish Parliament or any provision of an Act of the Scottish Parliament is incompatible with any of the Convention rights or with EU law."

7

Section 288ZB(4), which was inserted into the 1995 Act by section 35 of the 2012 Act, provides for references of compatibility issues to the Supreme Court by a court consisting of two or more judges of the High Court of Justiciary. Subsection (6) of that section provides that, on a reference to it under that section, the powers of the Supreme Court are exercisable only for the purpose of determining the compatibility issue. Subsection (7) provides that, when it has determined a compatibility issue on a reference under that section, the Supreme Court must remit the proceedings to the High Court. Section 288AA, which was inserted into the 1995 Act by section 36(6) of the 2012 Act, provides for appeals to the Supreme Court. It contains the same directions in subsections (2) and (3) as to the way this court's powers are to be exercised in the case of appeals as those in subsections (6) and (7) of section 288ZB which relate to references.

8

Article 2 of the 2013 Order provides:

"(1) A convertible devolution issue is a question arising in criminal proceedings before the relevant date which –

(a) is a devolution issue;

(b) would have been a compatibility issue had it arisen on or after that date; and

(c) has not been finally determined before the relevant date.

(2) But a devolution issue arising in criminal proceedings before the relevant date is not a convertible devolution issue if –

(a) the issue has been referred, or a determination of the issue has been appealed, to the Supreme Court under Schedule 6 to the 1998 Act; and

(b) the hearing of the reference or appeal commences before the relevant date."

Article 3(1) provides that, subject to qualifications which do not apply in this case, a convertible devolution issue becomes a compatibility issue for all purposes on the relevant date.

9

The allegation of undue delay raised a devolution issue within the meaning of paragraph 1(d) of Schedule 6 to the 1998 Act. It arose in criminal proceedings before 22 April 2013, it satisfied the other tests set out in article 2(1) of the 2013 Order and the hearing of the appeal did not commence before 22 April 2013. So it was a convertible devolution issue, and it has now become a compatibility issue by virtue of article 3(1). As it has come before the Supreme Court as an appeal against the determination of that issue by the Appeal Court, it is to be treated as an appeal under section 288AA(1) of the 1995 Act: 2013 Order, articles 4(2) and 7(2). So the powers of this court must be exercised in the manner provided for by section 288AA(2) and (3) of the 1995 Act.

10

The allegation of apparent bias was the subject of an amended note of appeal which had been lodged on O'Neill's behalf before the hearing before the Appeal Court of his...

To continue reading

Request your trial