Lucas direction

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Guidance from from the judge to the jury that the fact that the defendant has told lies, or is alleged to have told lies, does not in itself indicate guilt. The jury should be invited to consider other explanations why the defendant might have lied, including any he proffers himself during the trial. A Lucas direction is unnecessary in cases where the defendant's untruthfullness is a key feature of the prosecution case -- where, for example, guilt or innocence turns on whether the defendant is to be believed or not. The direction is more appropriate where there is a risk that the jury will infer guilt from some lie told that is collateral to the prosecution case.

In RVBurgeAndPegg1996 the Court of Appeal identified four main circumstances in which a Lucas direction should be given:

  1. The prosecution allege that the defendant lied about his alibi, or the defendant admits to doing so. There are a number of possible explanations for giving a false alibi, not all of which contribute to the strength of the prosecution case. For example, if an assault took place outside a pub, a suspect might originally tell the police that he was at work at the time of the offence, and not in the pub. If it comes to light during the the trial that he was in the pub after all, he might offer the explanation that he had skived off work early and didn't want his employer to know. This may be discreditable behaviour, and the fact that he was in the pub has substantial probative value. But the fact that he lied about being in the pub has, in itself, little additional probative value.
  2. The judge feels that the jury should consider whether it is necessary to look for corroboration of a particular piece of prosecution evidence, and that corroboration is most likely to be found in the defendant's untruthfullness. For example, where the defendant refutes the identification evidence of a witness, the judge (mindfull of the turnbull direction) may invite the jury to consider whether there is any other evidence to support the identification. If the suspect has lied about his whereabouts, the jury may infer that this lie is supportive of the identification evidence, whereas in fact it is not
  3. The prosecution is inviting the jury to infer guilt from the defendant's lies about a collateral issue
  4. The circumstances or presentation of the case makes for a real risk that the jury will make such an inference, even without the encouragement of the prosecution
    UK LAW