Rex V. Agnes Sawyer (1937)
LawGlobal Hub Judgment Report – West African Court of Appeal
Convictions for perjury—Omission by trial Judge to warn jury to A PPeal fromSupremeacquit if they are left in reasonable doubt.
Held : trial Judge must so warn jury. B. R. Lawrence v. The King (1933 Sierra Appeal Cases) followed. Conviction quashed.Leone.
There is no necessity to set out the facts. E. A. C. Davies for Appellant.
S. J. S. Barlatt for Crown.
The following judgment was delivered :KINGDON, C. J., NIGERIA.
In this case the appellant was charged on three counts with perjury and tried in the Supreme Court of Sierra Leone before B. A. K. McRoberts, Esq., Acting Chief Justice, sitting with a jury. She was convicted on the first two counts and sentenced to three months’ I.H.L. on each, to run concurrently. She now appeals to this Court on the ground inter alia that ” the learned trial Judge misdirected the jury in omitting to point out to them that if there was any reasonable doubt, the benefit should be given to the accused.”
The trial Judge in reporting to this Court states that he did not agree with the verdict of the jury because he did not think that the evidence was sufficient to warrant the accused’s conviction, and he summed up in her favour. But although in his summing-up he said in one short sentence, ” I want to remind you that it is for the prosecution to fully prove its case,” he failed to point out to the jury that if there was any reasonable doubt the benefit of it should be given to the accused.
The case appears to be exactly covered by the words of Lord Atkin in the case of B. R. Lawrence v. The King, 1933, A.C., p. 699 at p. 707.
” But speaking generally, it has to be remembered that it is an essential principle of our criminal law that a criminal charge has to be established by the prosecution beyond reasonable doubt ; and it is essential that the tribunal of fact should understand this. Unless the Judge makes sure that the jury appreciate their duty in this respect his omission is as grave an error as active misdirection on the elements of the offence, and a verdict of guilty given by a jury who have not taken this fundamental principle into account is given in a case where the essential forms of justice have been disregarded. In such a case, unless it can be predicated that properly directed the jury must have returned the same verdict, a substantial miscarriage of justice appears to be established.”
In the present case, where the Judge himself considered that the proper verdict was one of acquittal, how can it be predicated that if properly directed the jury must have returned the same verdict of ” guilty ” I It cannot, and therefore the convictions cannot be upheld.
The appeal is allowed, the convictions are quashed, and it is directed that in each case a judgment and verdict of acquittal be entered.