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Malcolm in the middle

There's a fine line between appropriate and inappropriate judicial conduct, warns Lucy Corrin

17 October 2011

The thorny issue of judicial intervention in the trial process has been revisited again in the case of R v Malcolm [2011] EWCA Crim 206. In Malcolm, the Court of Appeal had to decide whether the judge had inappropriately descended into the arena rather than holding the ring impartially.

Mr Malcolm had rented a flat through an estate agency and failed to pay rent. A warrant for his eviction was executed, the property was found to be empty and all the fixtures and fittings had been taken. The appellant was arrested at a new address and some of the missing items were recovered.

The defendant gave a prepared statement in which he claimed to have been given permission by an unnamed female employee of the agency to take fixtures and fittings. His defence statement was drafted as a general denial that he did not steal or intend to steal the items, nor had he acted dishonestly. He did not give evidence and was convicted of theft. He appealed the conviction on the ground...

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