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

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

  • Good character directions in criminal proceedings
  • Procedure for giving good character directions
  • Who is entitled to a good character direction?
  • Types of cases where good character directions may apply
  • Failure to give a good character direction
  • Adducing the evidence of the good character of complainant witnesses
  • Content of good character directions
  • Good character directions

Evidence of defendant's good character in criminal proceedings is admissible and can go to either propensity or credibility or both:

  1. propensity—the defendant is unlikely to have committed the offence with which they are accused

  2. credibility—the defendant is more truthful than someone without such good character

Procedure for giving good character directions

Since an absence of convictions does not necessarily mean a defendant is of good character, where reliance is placed on good character it is the duty of defence counsel and the defendant to ensure that the judge is aware of that fact. Where there is any doubt it is good practice for the judge to raise the matter with counsel.

Any proposed good character direction should be provided to counsel and counsel for both the prosecution and the defendant should be given the opportunity to make submissions where the directions were not anticipated by counsel (R v Gonzales [2004] EWCA Crim 2117 (not reported by LexisNexis®)).

Who is entitled to a good character direction?

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

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