11th Oct 2021
This morning the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council handed down its judgment in the matter of Maharaj and others v The State (Trinidad and Tobago)  UKPC 27. Tom Poole QC and Hannah Fry successfully acted for the Respondent, instructed by Charles Russell Speechlys LLP. This is an important and interesting decision as it clarifies the test of credibility in deciding on the admissibility of fresh evidence, in particular recantation evidence, in criminal law.
Unanimously dismissing the appeal, the Privy Council held that a two-stage process must be adopted by the court in assessing whether fresh evidence is capable of belief. First, is it necessary or expedient to admit the fresh evidence in the interests of justice? Only if the fresh evidence is deemed trustworthy or “well capable of belief”, is it necessary to pose the second question: what impact does the evidence have upon the safety of the conviction? If the second question does arise and there is any doubt, the court may apply “the jury impact test”: whether the evidence, if given at trial, might reasonably have affected the decision of the trial jury to convict? However, the admission of fresh evidence does not automatically trigger such test and the occasions when it is likely to do so will be few and far between.