Weekly Digest: 8th July 2019


8 July 2019

Last week in Johnson v Westminster Magistrates’ Court, the Divisional Court considered whether to uphold the decision to issue a summons for three offences of misconduct in public office during the 2016 EU Referendum campaign. The Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) gave important guidance in R v Chin-Charles in relation to the length, nature, and structure of sentencing remarks. Finally, in R v Foy, the Court of Appeal considered an application for leave to appeal against a murder conviction on the basis of a psychiatric report obtained after conviction. The Digest considers each decision in more detail below.

Johnson v Westminster Magistrates Court [2019] EWHC 1709 (Admin)

The judgment, available here, was handed down by Rafferty LJ and Supperstone J on 3 July 2019.

Boris Johnson challenged by way of judicial review the respondent magistrates’ court’s decision to issue a summons alleging three offences of misconduct in public office. The alleged offences related to the 2016 EU referendum campaign during which it was said that Mr Johnson repeatedly lied and misled the British public as to the cost of EU membership, stating that it was £350 million per week. The summons were quashed: Mr Johnson was not discharging the duties of his public office when he made the contested claim and so one of the key elements of the common law offence was not met.


R v Chin-Charles [2019] EWCA Crim 1140

The judgment of Lord Burnett of Maldon CJ, dated 3 July 2019, is available here.

In these two applications for leave to appeal against sentence the Court of Appeal considered the length, nature, and structure of sentencing remarks, in addition to the individual merits of the applications. In both cases the sentencing remarks were comprehensive – 17 and 76 pages respectively. The Court held that such length is rarely, if ever, necessary or desirable. Trial judges should not craft their remarks with an eye to the Court of Appeal but rather in plain language and with a keen focus on their primary audience, the offender. This was even the case where the offending arose out of a complicated drugs and weapons conspiracy involving an organised crime group and 19 defendants. One application for leave was granted, though the sentence itself reduced by only four days to reflect days spend on curfew. The other application was dismissed.


R v Foy [2019] EWCA Crim 1156

The judgment, available here, was handed down by Knowles J on 5 July 2019.

The applicant renewed his application for leave to appeal against his conviction for murder, for which he was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 17 years. The application was grounded in a second psychiatric report obtained after conviction and sought to rely on this fresh evidence to argue that the applicant could rely on the defence of diminished responsibility. The application was not resisted by the Crown. Leave to appeal against conviction was granted, and orders made for the second psychiatrist to provide a supplemental report so that the court at the full appeal could decide whether to admit the fresh evidence.



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