The appellant, Darren Hughes, was convicted of assaulting his sister and attempting to murder another man, Ryan Farrer, at a flat in Edinburgh. He was prosecuted alongside co-accused, Mark Mitchell. He was sentenced to nine years imprisonment for the offences.
It was argued on behalf of the appellant that the trial judge should have allowed evidence to be heard from Mr Farrer’s sister. The appellant was convicted of entering his sister’s flat and punching her on the head and kicking her on the body to her severe injury. In respect of Mr Farrer the appellant was convicted of assaulting him to the danger of his life by stabbing him repeatedly and attempting to murder him.
Mr Farrer died before the trial due to unrelated causes. In his statement to police Mr Farrer said he had woken up and someone was assaulting him. He identified this person as being Mr Mitchell. He did not see Mr Mitchell with a knife however, he blamed him for the stabbing. Both accused lodged special of defences of incrimination against one another in respect of the stabbing.
However, during the trial the appellant sought permission from the court to lead evidence from Mr Farrer’s sister, Danielle Farrer. She had not been on the list of defence witnesses; however, she had been present in court for the two days of the trial. She made the Crown aware that she had information and a statement was obtained from her. She explained that she had spoken with Mr Mitchell after he brother’s funeral and he said to her ‘I’m no gonnae get caught for it anyway as there’s no evidence’. It was stated that she would also have said in her evidence that her brother had told her that it was Mr Mitchell that had stabbed him.
The trial judge refused to allow Ms Farrer to give evidence. The basis for this refusal being that it was highly likely she would be influenced by what she had heard in court. Counsel for the appellant submitted on appeal that this refusal had placed inappropriate weight on factors which were of no relevance.
In providing the opinion of the court, Lord Carloway stated: The trial judge took the view that, having sat through the most fundamental and important passages of evidence, it was highly likely that the witness would have been influenced by what she had seen and heard during the trial. That was an entirely reasonable conclusion in the circumstances. In reaching it, the judge was entitled to take into account that, in relation to the references to what her brother had told her, Miss Farrer had made no previous mention of that, even when interviewed by the police during the currency of the trial.”
He continued: “In relation to what Mr Mitchell had said to her in the supermarket, that did not amount to any form of admission by him. A statement from Mr Farrer, to the effect that it had been Mr Mitchell who had stabbed him, was already before the jury in the form of that given by Mr Farrer to the police on the morning after the incident. Any evidence of a later statement to the same effect would have been of little evidential value.”
The appeal was refused.