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Monday, May 13th, 2024

Cathal Kelly v HM Advocate [2024] HCJAC 17

David Adams appeared on behalf of the appellant in this matter. The ground of appeal was that the jury had been misdirected by the trial judge regarding what could amount to an admission.

The relevant admission is detailed at [8]. The parties arguments are summarised at [14] and [15].

The court accepted the appellant's submission that for the jury to read into the language said to constitute the 'admission' amounted to the jury engaging "...in speculation and to stretch the plain meaning of the words beyond breaking point" . The court held that the trial judge misdirected the jury regarding the purported 'admission', and this amounted to a miscarriage of justice (see [16]). The conviction was duly quashed.

This is a useful case for defence agents in addressing the limitations of unequivocal admissions. In that regard, the appellant relied on LC v HM Advocate [2022] HCJAC 47, the ratio of which the court applied in the instant case (see [16]).

In considering what can (or cannot) amount to an admission, it is useful to contrast the terms of the purported 'admissions' in the instant case and LC with the 'loaded' language of what were found to be unequivocal admissions in CR v HM Advocate 2022 JC 235 and WM v HM Advocate [2022] HCJAC 28, together with the context of those unequivocal admissions.

Finally, it is also notable that Lord Matthews was a wing judge in the instant case and all of those referred to above, and Lady Wise was a wing judge in the instant case, CR and LC. Thus, there is a recent body of precedent on this issue which the court has developed within the last few years.

A copy of the Opinion can be found here.

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