RVKearly 1992

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(HL) 2 AC 228. The defendant was convicted of an offence of drug trafficking. One of the central pieces of prosecution evidence was that large numbers of people had telephoned the defendant's house asking for drugs. On appeal, the defence argued that this evidence was inadmissible Hearsay -- the police were reporting statements made by persons unknown, who could not themsevles be called as witnesses. The Court of Appeal rejected this argument, on the grounds that the police reports were evidence of the caller's beliefs about the defendant, not of the truth of the allegation that the defendant was a drug dealer.

The defendant appealed to the House of lords.

The majority view of the House of lords was that this telephone evidence was not exluded by the hearsay rule, so far as it went to show that a pattern of behaviour was associated with the defendant. On this view it was not the visitor's statments that were evidence of the matters stated, but that their behaviour was evidence of their state of mind. However, the majority view was that, if evidence of the caller's state of mind was not excluded by virtue of being hearsay, then it was still inadmissible, because it was logically irrelevant. There are, it was suggested, many innocent ways to explain the state of mind of the callers. Perhaps it had been put about that the defendant was a drug dealer just to annoy him -- stranger things have happened.

However, the majority view was that, if the reports of the phone calls had been tendered as evidence of the defendant's being a drug dealer, rather than as evidence of the caller's states of mind, it would have been inadmissible hearsay.

The minority view was that, although the caller's behaviour was technically hearsay if put as evidence of the fact that the defendant was a drug dealer, it was admissible hearsay, because it contained only an implied assertion. It was argued that implied assertions were more reliable that oral reports, and this is something with which the Law Commission agreed, and which is now reflected in the CJA_2003.

Criminal Law

Evidence law