Good character directions in criminal proceedings
Produced in partnership with Harriet Johnson of Doughty Street
Good character directions in criminal proceedings

The following Corporate Crime guidance note Produced in partnership with Harriet Johnson of Doughty Street provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Good character directions in criminal proceedings
  • Good character directions
  • Procedure
  • Types of cases where good character directions may apply
  • Adducing the evidence of the good character of complainant witnesses
  • Content of good character directions

Evidence of defendant's good character in criminal proceedings is admissible as of right. Such evidence is typically admitted to prove either to demonstrate that the defendant is unlikely to have committed the offence with which he or she is accused as the defendant has no propensity to commit such a crime, or that the defendant is more truthful than someone without such good character.

Where such evidence is relied upon, the presiding judge is required to provide the jury with a specific direction on the relevance of good character evidence. The purpose of a good character direction is to explain to the jury that they ought to take account of the relevant evidence and to remind the jury that it is a matter for them whether they give it any weight.

The law on good character directions was carefully reassessed by the Court of Appeal in R v Hunter which concluded that good character directions, since the decisions in R v Vye and R v Aziz [1996] 1 AC 41 (not reported by LexisNexis®), had been wrongly applied and had been given in cases where defendants did not deserve such a direction due to previous convictions, cautions or relevant misconduct. The Court of Appeal took the opportunity to re-emphasise the circumstances in which good character directions should be given to juries.

In consequence, only defendants with no previous convictions, cautions