Judge’s multiple errors caused man to be jailed for 12 years (2013)

"Adelaide Gaol_93"" by Nathan Lenton. Found on flickr and used under Creative Commons.

Jailed in 2013 for 12 years on fourteen historic indecent assault allegations – overturned on appeal 11 June 2014.

Nicholas West has had his convictions for ten counts of indecent assault and four counts of indecency with a child quashed. The trial judge misdirected the jury on the significance of the delay in reporting the alleged abuse, and the absence of any continuing abuse and/or threats; the jury was not instructed that they must be sure that complainant was telling the truth.

The following summary is culled from the SAFARI newsletter

The Court of Appeal ruled that there had been significant problems with the trial Judge’s summing-up, where he failed to remind the jury about the significance of the standard of proof required.

Without a direction on the standard of proof, observations made in the summing-up “could well give the jury the impression that they simply had to decide who to believe; was it more likely that the complainant was telling the truth, or the defendant? In fact the jury had to ask itself if they were sure that the defendant was guilty, and that meant that they had to be sure that the complainant was telling the truth. Anything less than that demanded an acquittal.”

The trial judge had also, in the view of the Court of Appeal, failed to give adequate direction to the jury concerning the effect of the long delay before complaints were made. “… this was a case where the judge ought to have emphasised that if the jury considered that the defendant may have been prejudiced by the delay, they ought to have regard to that fact when considering whether the prosecution had made them sure of the defendant’s guilt.”

In addition, the trial judge had failed to draw the jury’s attention adequately to a number of issues: he did not point out that there had been no intimidation or threats which would account for a delay; and he did not remind the jury that there had been no complaints of any wrongdoing of any kind in the intervening time between the alleged offences and the time the complaints were made.

Although he had referred earlier to the point that nobody else living in the small house had heard anything or had any suspicions, the fact that the complainant had voluntarily remained in contact with Nicholas well into adulthood, and that the complaints had not arisen until after a long period of time had elapsed, they ruled: “where there is no independent supporting evidence and everything turns on the veracity of the complainant with respect to historic offences, it was highly desirable that the judge should, albeit briefly, have brought these points in the defendant’s case together so that if the jury convicted, they would do so with a full understanding of the factors which might undermine the prosecution case.” They considered that “the summing up was defective and we cannot say that the verdicts would necessarily have been the same had an appropriate summing up been given.”

Case: R v Nicholas West [2014] EWCA Crim 1392
Full report at

Felicity Gerry QC appeared on behalf of the Appellant.

About INNOCENT (138 Articles)
Challenging miscarriages of justice since 1993.

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