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Appeal on the Grounds of “Unfair Trial”

HMA v Steven Jackson

A man found guilty of murdering a former girlfriend who claimed that evidence given by his ex-wife was “prejudicial” and therefore his trial was “unfair” has had his appeal against conviction refused. The appellant argued that the trial judge erred in refusing a defence submission to desert the Trial Diet but the Appeal Court ruled that there was no “miscarriage of justice.” The appellant Mr Jackson was found guilty in December 2016 following a trial at the High Court in Glasgow of the murder of Kimberley Anne MacKenzie.

The appellant’s ex-wife, BW, told the Court that the appellant admitted that he had “cut someone up” and how he had disposed of the remains in various bins. It was predicted that BW might reveal some damaging evidence about the appellant mainly that he had admitted murdering her daughter’s boyfriend. She had referred to this in her police statement and also that he had committed robberies and various other serious crimes. The Advocate depute was careful in his examination in chief to ensure that no additional information, which might be prejudicial, was put before the jury. However, BW had complained that defence counsel’s manner was “abrupt” and “snipey”.

The appellant submitted that BW had made a number of remarks which were so prejudicial that the Trial could not be conducted fairly, but the trial judge refused the motion to desert the diet pro loco et tempore.

The Sherriff directed the jury to ignore any outbursts referring to “alleged conduct” by the first accused which did not form part of the charges on the indictment and that they had to reach their verdicts “solely on the evidence” that they had heard in court.

In conclusion, Lord Justice General said: “It was for the trial judge to determine whether the remarks by BW had so compromised the prospects of a fair trial that desertion became imperative, if a potential miscarriage of justice were to be avoided. “The trial judge has a considerable advantage over an appellate court in understanding the realities of the situation. She was best able to assess the likely, and possible, impact of the answers in light of all that had happened during the trial. Further adding, “The judge is afforded a wide discretion” in such situation. The appeal was refused.

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