R v Humphrys

JurisdictionUK Non-devolved
JudgeViscount Dilhorne,Lord Hailsham of St. Marylebone,Lord Salmon,Lord Edmund-Davies,Lord Fraser of Tullybelton
Judgment Date19 May 1976
Judgment citation (vLex)[1976] UKHL J0519-1
Date19 May 1976
CourtHouse of Lords
Director of Public Prosecutions
(on Appeal from the Court of Appeal) (Criminal Division))

Viscount Dilhorne

Lord Hailsham of St. Marylebone

Lord Salmon

Lord Edmund-Davies

Lord Fraser of Tullybelton

House of Lords

Upon Report from the Appellate Committee, to whom was referred the Cause Director of Public Prosecutions against Humphrys, That the Committee had heard Counsel, as well on Monday the 23d, as on Tuesday the 24th, Wednesday the 25th and Thursday the 26th, days of February last, upon the Petition and Appeal of the Director of Public Prosecutions, praying, That the matter of the Order set forth in the First Schedule thereto, namely, an Order of Her Majesty's Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) of the 23d of May 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 Bruce Edward Humphrys, 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 23d day of May 1975, complained of in the said Appeal, be, and the same is hereby, Reversed, and that the conviction of the Respondent for perjury imposed by the Honourable Mr. Justice Shaw at Chelmsford Crown Court on the 29th day of November 1974, thereby Quashed, be, and the same is hereby, Restored: And it is further Ordered, That in lieu of the term of imprisonment to which the Respondent was sentenced on account of the said conviction there be substituted a term of imprisonment expiring on the 25th day of February 1976; And it is also further Ordered, That the Cause be, and the same is hereby. Remitted back, to the Chelmsford Crown Court, to do therein as shall be just and consistent with this Judgment.

Viscount Dilhorne

My Lords,


On the 28th June 1973 the respondent who then lived at 39 Lenthall Avenue, Grays, Essex, was acquitted at Chelmsford Crown Court of driving while disqualified on the 18th July 1972. On that day a motor cyclist was stopped by P.C. Weight. He gave his name as Brian Scott. He was riding a Triumph motor cycle with the registration number PGY 673 E. Its road fund licence had expired and the rider told P.C. Weight that a new licence had been applied for.


The respondent gave evidence and swore that he did not own a motor cycle on the 18th July 1972, that there had then been a lodger in his house called Brian Scott and that Brian Scott had had a Triumph motor cycle.


In his evidence in chief he was asked "Did you do any driving of any vehicles in the year of 1972?" "No, none at all" was his answer. "On a public road?" was the next question to which his answer was "No".


As the respondent did not dispute that on the 18th July 1972 he was disqualified from driving, the jury's verdict of "Not Guilty" can only have been due to their not being satisfied by the evidence of P.C. Weight that he was the rider of the motor cycle stopped by P.C. Weight.


On the 29th November 1974 the respondent again appeared at Chelmsford Crown Court. This time it was to answer an indictment containing three counts. The first charged him with obtaining property by deception, the particulars of the offence alleging that he had dishonestly obtained £60 by pretending, inter alia, that his name was Brian Edward Scott. The second charged him with forgery, the particulars of offence alleging that on the 20th July 1972, two days after the motor cyclist had been stopped by P.C. Weight, with intent to deceive he forged a document which purported to be an application by Brian Edward Scott to re-license a Triumph motor cycle with the registration number PGY 673 E. To these counts he pleaded guilty.


The third count, to which he pleaded not guilty, charged him with having committed perjury at his trial on the 29th June 1973 in saying on oath that he had not driven any vehicle during 1972. Mrs. Reynolds, Mr. Baldwin and Mrs. Walker, all neighbours of the respondent in Lenthall Avenue, gave evidence for the prosecution. Mrs. Reynolds said that in 1972 she saw a motor cycle at 39 Lenthall Avenue, that she had never seen a lodger there and that she had seen the respondent on the motor cycle, not on the roadway but when he appeared to be coming from it or going to it. She had never seen anyone else on it. Mr. Baldwin said that he had seen the respondent riding the motor cycle out from his home and go off down the road on it, with his wife sometimes on the pillion. Mrs. Walker said that she had never seen any sign of a lodger but that about twice at about 6.20 a.m. she had seen the respondent fetching in the motor cycle from the road. They gave reasons for concluding that what they had seen occurred in 1972. The application for the licence for the motor cycle which the respondent had pleaded guilty to forging was also put in evidence.


When the prosecution sought to call P.C. Weight to testify that the respondent was the rider of the motor cycle whom he had stopped on the 18th July 1972, Mr. Belben, for the respondent, objected on the ground that his evidence was inadmissible. Shaw J. rejected this submission, saying that at this trial P.C. Weight's evidence was not directed to establishing the respondent's guilt on the charge of driving while disqualified but simply to the question whether he was riding the motor cycle on the 18th July 1972. So at the second trial the jury were invited to accept the evidence of P.C. Weight which the jury at first trial had not accepted and which, if they had accepted, would have led to the conviction of the respondent of driving while disqualified.


The respondent was convicted of perjury and was sentenced on each of the first two counts to three months imprisonment to run concurrently and on the third count to nine months imprisonment to run consecutively.


The Court of Appeal (Lord Widgery C.J., James L.J. and Ashworth J.) allowed the respondent's appeal against his conviction for perjury. Later the prosecution was given leave to appeal to this House, it being certified that the following point of law of general public importance was involved, namely:

"Where in a trial on indictment there is a single issue between prosecution and defence and the defendant is acquitted, is evidence tending to show that the defendant was guilty of that offence admissible in a subsequent prosecution of the defendant for perjury committed during the first trial?"


The appeal was allowed on the ground that the doctrine of issue estoppel applied. The question, was the respondent the rider of the motor cycle on the 18th July 1972 having been determined by the jury at the first trial in the respondent's favour, P. C. Weight could not, it was held, testify in the second trial that the respondent was the rider on that date in support of the charge that the respondent had falsely sworn that he had not driven a vehicle in 1972.


The judgment of the Court did not refer to the evidence of the three neighbours or to the forged application for the licence. Although it does not appear to have been argued in the Court of Appeal that the respondent could rely on autrefois acquit as a ground for excluding P. C. Weight's evidence, Mr. Harvey for the respondent submitted that the scope of that plea had been extended over the years and that it applied in this case.


So, in this appeal the following questions arise for decision:

  • (1) does the doctrine of issue estoppel apply in the criminal law?

  • (2) does autrefois acquit apply in this case; and

  • (3) if issue estoppel or autrefois acquit applies, does that prevent P.C. Weight's evidence being given on the perjury charge?


Issue estoppel, if it applies in criminal cases, must be distinguished from the pleas of autrefois convict and autrefois acquit. As Lord Denning pointed out in Fidelitas Shipping Co. Ltd. v. V/O Exportchleb [1966] 1 Q.B. 630 at p. 640:

"Within one cause of action there may be several issues raised which are necessary for the determination of the whole case. The rule then is that once an issue has been raised and distinctly determined between the parties, then, as a general rule, neither party can be allowed to fight that issue all over again."


The pleas of autrefois acquit and autrefois convict do not depend on an issue being determined in an earlier trial but on the result of that trial. In the course of his speech in Connelly v. Director of Public Prosecutions [1964] A.C. 1254 my noble and learned friend Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest made a full and comprehensive review of the law relating to the plea of autrefois acquit. He pointed out that Blackstone in his Commentaries, Book 4 (1759 Ed:) p. 329 had said that the pleas of autrefois acquit and autrefois convict were:

"grounded on this universal maxim of the common law of England, that no man is to be brought into jeopardy of his life more than once for the same offence."


and said that in his view both principle and authority established nine propositions, the first four of which were:

"(1) That a man cannot be tried for a crime in respect of which he has previously been acquitted or convicted.

(2) That a man cannot be tried for a crime in respect of which he could on some previous indictment have been convicted.

(3) That the same rule applies if the crime in respect of which he is being charged is in effect the same, or is substantially the same, as either the principal or a different crime in respect of which he has been acquitted or could have been...

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