• The good character backstop: directions, defeasibility and frameworks of fairness

      Glover, Richard (Cambridge University Press, 2020-09-04)
      This paper examines the law on good character evidence in criminal trials through a discussion of the important but under-analysed case of Hunter, in which a five-judge Court of Appeal sought to clarify the law on good character directions to the jury. However, it is argued here that the judgment conflicts with the leading House of Lords decision in Aziz. The paper considers how the court misinterpreted the law and, in particular, the defeasible nature of the rule in Aziz and the impact of the Criminal Justice Act 2003. As a result, the circumstances in which a good character direction will be provided have diminished significantly. It is argued that this has important implications for the right to a fair trial, as good character directions act as a ‘backstop’ against miscarriages of justice. They also form a vital part of the ‘framework of fairness’ considered necessary, in lieu of reasoned jury verdicts, by the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights in Taxquet v Belgium. Accordingly, it is contended that Aziz rather than Hunter should be followed so that, where there is evidence of good character, a direction is normally provided as a matter of law.