R v Sawyer

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
Judgment Date22 May 1980
Judgment citation (vLex)[1980] EWCA Crim J0522-1
CourtCourt of Appeal (Criminal Division)
Docket NumberNo. 4830/A/79
Date22 May 1980
Catherine Afulenu Sawyer

[1980] EWCA Crim J0522-1


The Lord Chief Justice of England (Lord Lane)

Mr. Justice Phillips


Mr. Justice Woolf

No. 4830/A/79



Royal Courts of Justice

MR. H. BOYD appeared on behalf of the Appellant.

MR. L. LAIT appeared on behalf of the Crown.


On 5th November last year at the Crown Court at Lewes before Judge Lovegrove, this appellant was convicted of being knowingly concerned in the fraudulent evasion of the prohibition on the importation of cannabis. The facts were that she had brought into this country from Nigeria 19.36 kilogrammes of that substance. She was sentenced to two years' imprisonment.


The facts of the case are really unimportant, because this appeal simply concerns an incident which took place in the canteen of the Court during the course of the trial, an incident which led to an application being made to the learned Judge to discharge the jury. But very briefly the prosecution case was that this lady came into this country from Nigeria. She was stopped by customs officers at Gatwick Airport, her suitcases were eventually opened and in the suitcases was found the cannabis in question. Her defence was that she did not know that it was there and that the cannabis must, she presumed, have been planted in the suitcases before she set off from Nigeria, she being made an innocent messenger to bring in this valuable substance.


What happened in the canteen was this. The trial had been in progress for about a week and it seems that the appellant and four of her relations were in the canteen when they saw Mr. Cooper, the Senior Customs Officer who was in charge of the investigation and particularly the questioning of the appellant which took place after she had been arrested, and a Woman Customs Officer called Fenton, talking to three members of the jury in the canteen.


The facts were related to the Judge and he was then faced with the unexpected and difficult task of deciding how best to deal with this incident. What he did first of all was to direct that each of the people concerned should be questioned on oath. First of all Customs Officer Cooper was subjected to questioning. Be it said immediately that what he had done, on any view of the matter, was an act of gross stupidity. How anyone of this seniority and experience could risk saying one single word to a member of the jury passes comprehension. But this is what he said happened. He admitted speaking to the three members of the jury. He had said "good morning" to them. One of the jurymen had asked him if there was a chance of the case finishing on that day. He had said that there was a reasonable chance if they were sent out to consider their verdict by the mid-day adjournment, "if they did not finish today they would have to return on Monday". Then he said that one of the jurymen asked him "Do you do much of this?" and he replied "All the time." That was the sum total of the conversation, according to him, and his recollection was that that conversation lasted about three or four minutes.


The Woman Customs Officer Fenton was then questioned. She stated that she had a general conversation with Cooper, her colleague, at a table. There were two men and a woman also at the table. She had not realised that they were members of the jury. She may have said "hello" to them, but she did not hear any conversation between Cooper and them. She noticed a number of coloured people, who turned out to be the appellant and her relations, speaking at a table nearby in the canteen.


Whilst these two witnesses were giving their evidence, the appellant and the four witnesses who were her relations were in the Court who could of course hear what was going on.


The next series of witnesses whom the Judge questioned were those people – the appellant and her relations. The appellant herself said that the conversation lasted during the whole time that Cooper was drinking his tea and she overheard Cooper saying something about "suspended sentence" and then something about "if...

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28 cases
  • DPP v Anton Mulder
    • Ireland
    • Court of Criminal Appeal
    • 20 July 2007
    ...v DPP [1994] 2 IR 465, Bula Ltd v Tara Mines Ltd (No 6) [2000] 4 IR 41 and People (DPP) v Tobin [2001] 3 IR 469 applied; R v Sawyer [1980] 71 Cr App R 283 not followed - Appeal allowed, retrial ordered (90/2006 - CCA - 20/7/2007) [2007] IECCA 63 People (DPP) v Mulder there was inappropria......
  • R v Spencer
    • United Kingdom
    • Court of Appeal (Criminal Division)
    • 2 November 1984
  • R v Spencer
    • United Kingdom
    • House of Lords
    • 24 July 1986
    ...the Court of Appeal and before us, that he had expressed the test in terms which were too strict. The correct test is the one stated in Reg. v. Sawyer (1980) 71 Cr.App.R. 283, 285 namely, whether there was a "real danger" that the appellants' position had been prejudiced in the circumstanc......
  • R v Mickleburgh
    • United Kingdom
    • Court of Appeal (Criminal Division)
    • 19 July 1994
    ...alleged irregularity of this kind is one which should prompt this court to allow an appeal has been variously stated. We were referred to R v Sawyer (1980) 71 Cr App R 283. The headnote of that case reads: "The appellant was charged with being knowingly concerned in the fraudulent evasion o......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • Judicial Bias and Disqualification after Pinochet (No. 2)
    • United Kingdom
    • The Modern Law Review No. 63-1, January 2000
    • 1 January 2000
    ...ex Parte Barnsley and District Licensed Victuallers’ Association[1960] 2 QB 167 at pp. 186–187. RvBox [1964] 1 QB 340; RvSawyer (1980) 71 Cr App R 283; RvSpencer [1987] AC 128; RvGough [1993] AC 646.11 Metropolitan Properties Co (FGC) Ltd vLannon [1969] 1 QB 577 at p 599. The ‘reasonablesus......

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