Law of Evidence - R v Kearley

Authors Avatar

Law of Evidence - Assessed Work (No.2)

by Simon Wolman

R v Kearley

Essentially this piece concerns whether the House of Lords correctly decided the case of R v Kearley. The majority decided allowing the appeal, that the evidence concerned in this case was either irrelevant, and therefore inadmissible (unless part of the res gestae) or was inadmissible as hearsay in the form of an implied assertion. The facts of Kearley will be discussed, followed by an analysis of the decision by their Lordships, finally considering the issues of relevance and implied assertions in relation to the decision in Kearley.

The facts of Kearley are well known. The disputed evidence was that the police officers whilst on the raid answered a number of callers to the flats, both by telephone and by visitors. The police officers testified that the callers were seeking to buy drugs in place of the original callers who were unwilling or unable to attend court. The appellant objected to the evidence on the ground that it was hearsay, but this was overruled. The Court of Appeal dismissed his appeal and certified a question to the House of Lords.

Condensing the certified question, it was whether a person not called as a witness, for the purpose of not establishing the truth of any fact narrated by the words, but of inviting the jury to draw an inference from the fact that the words were spoken ?

On the issue of relevancy, Lord Ackner for the majority considered that each request was evidence of the state of mind of the person making the request, and that was an irrelevant issue in the trial. This was backed up by Lords Bridge and Oliver. It should be noted though that Lord Bridge first considered that the evidence was inadmissible as hearsay, failing which it was irrelevant. Lord Oliver stated  that it becomes relevant only if the existence of facts can be inferred form it. Furthermore, Lord Oliver considered that the evidence would have been both relevant and admissible if the prosecution sought to adduce evidence from a witness to the effect that the appellant had in the past supplied him with a quantity of drugs.

This view on relevance was not shared by the dissenters (Lords Griffiths and Browne-Wilkinson). According to Lord Browne-Wilkinson the evidence of the requests was ‘relevant because it showed that there were people resorting to the premises for the purpose of obtaining drugs from Chippie’ (the appellant). His Lordship went further and suggested that ‘the fact that there were a number of people seeking to buy drugs was legally relevant and admissible as showing that there was a market to which the accused could sell’.

Finally an interesting point made by Lord Browne-Wilkinson is that any human activity necessary implies that the human being had reasons and beliefs on which his actions are based. On this line of argument, the only reason for the requests for drugs came either from a belief or a known reason that the appellant could supply drugs to the callers and visitors.  

To Lord Griffiths the fact that the customers telephoned or visited the appellants premises showed that they believed they could obtain drugs from the appellant. Furthermore, the obvious inference was that the appellant had established a market as a dealer by supplying or offering to supply drugs and was thus attracting customers .

Join now!

The dissenters relied on a number of Commonwealth cases, which held that evidence of telephone calls to particular premises by persons seeking to place bets is admissible evidence that the premises are being used for illegal gambling.

On the issue of hearsay, the majority held that the use of evidence of words spoken by a person not called as a witness which are said to assert a relevant fact by necessary implication are inadmissible as hearsay. Essentially, the majority held that implied assertions are inadmissible as hearsay, applying the cases of Wright v Doe D Tatham, Myers ...

This is a preview of the whole essay

Here's what a teacher thought of this essay


An effective conclusion. This essay is excellent. It considers each judgment - minority and majority views - in Kearley, and academic commentary in some depth. It would achieve high marks at even undergraduate level. 5 Stars.