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R v Graham James Coutts

Save in exceptional circumstances, an appellate court should quash a conviction, whether for murder or for a lesser offence, as constituting a serious miscarriage of justice where a judge has erred in failing to leave, irrespective of the wishes of trial counsel, any lesser alternative verdict which there is evidence to support.

28 July 2006

The appellant (C) appealed against his conviction for murder. The case for C was that the victim had died during consensual asphyxial sex, whereas the case for the Crown was of a deliberate killing. Counsel for both parties had thought it would not be in the interests of justice if the offence of manslaughter was left to the jury. C had decided that he would bank on an acquittal on the count of murder with consequent release, although that involved running the risk of a conviction for murder, rather than accept the strong possibility of a finding of manslaughter. Following conviction for murder, C had then argued that an alternative verdict of manslaughter should have been left to the jury. The Court of Appeal had rejected the argument on the basis that it would have “involved a different and inconsistent case from that put forward by the prosecution”, and that the jury’s task would be made more complicated without enhancing the interests of justice. C submitted that the trial...

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