Bryant v R [2011] NSWCCA 26 (2 March 2011)

CRIMINAL LAW – appeal against conviction – whether error in not ordering separate trials – whether error in admitting evidence of offences not on indictment – whether error in leaving all counts for the jury to determine – whether miscarriage resulting from submissions by prosecutor or errors of fact by trial judge
EVIDENCE – whether evidence in support of some counts and offences not on indictment admissible as tendency or coincidence evidence – whether evidence of confessional statements to custody manager admissible under s 281 of Criminal Procedure Act 1986 – whether in the course of “official questioning” – whether “in connection with the investigation” of an offence

49 The appellant complains first that the Judge erred in permitting a joint trial of the counts on the indictment and the three other offences and secondly that the prosecutor in the course of the application made errors that may have misled the Judge.
50 Something should be said about the manner in which the application proceeded. As the appellant notes in his submissions, no tendency or coincidence notice was filed. This was in breach of both ss 97 and 98 of the Evidence Act . This is an unacceptable practice even though no point was taken by defence counsel. The contents of a properly drafted notice in respect of coincidence evidence was considered in R v Zhang [2005] NSWCCA 437; 158 A Crim R 504. The contents of a properly drafted notice for tendency evidence was considered in Gardiner v R [2006] NSWCCA 190; 162 A Crim R 233. The importance of explicitly identifying the related events for the purpose of s 98 and the asserted tendency for the purpose of s 97 should be obvious: how else is the court going to be able to make a rational decision about the probative value of the evidence.
51 The Judge should have refused to proceed until proper notices were given notwithstanding the attitude take by defence counsel. Here the whole of the evidence was simply placed before the Judge on the basis it was tendency, coincidence or circumstantial evidence without any attempt to place it into its component parts or identify what evidence was admissible on what basis.

116 In my opinion it was clearly open to the Judge to have admitted the evidence. It was relevant as a response to being shown the bags from Belconnen McDonald’s. Whether or not it was an admission to that robbery was a question of fact for the jury and they were in a good position to make that decision because it was video recorded. It was not misleading because the jury knew all the surrounding facts upon which they could base their decision. It was not crucial to the Crown case, which was really based upon coincidence or tendency evidence, but it supported the contention that the appellant committed the Belconnen robberies. Section 137 of the Evidence Act had no role to play because, if the jury thought that the appellant was admitting to the Belconnen robbery, the only prejudice was that the admission supported the Crown case. On the other hand, if the jury doubted that he was admitting to have committed the Belconnen robbery and was confused, tired or for some other reason was referring to the Mittagong robbery, they would have disregarded it as having no evidentiary value.
117 There was no other reason to reject the evidence. It was not illegally obtained and, if it was an admission, then there was no reason to doubt its reliability. Section 90 had no role to play because the admission of the evidence did not render the appellant’s trial unfair.
118 In his evidence the appellant explained that he was mistaken and thought he was referring to the Mittagong robbery. That was the position taken by his counsel in his closing address.
119 In my opinion the evidence was rightly admitted.