McPhee v The Queen – WLR Daily

McPhee v The Queen [2016] UKPC 29

‘The defendant, a 17-year-old from Nassau, was arrested on a neighbouring island of The Bahamas on suspicion of murder following an armed robbery. He gave his mother’s phone number in Nassau to the police but no contact with her was established and no lawyer was called. After more than 31 hours in custody, during which time the custody log showed he had been taken from his cell several times but without any record made of his being questioned, a church minister in his mid-seventies was asked to come to the police station to witness the defendant make a statement. The minister did not speak to the defendant alone nor offer him any advice, but observed that the defendant was hungry and gave the police money to buy him a meal, after which the defendant made a written statement under caution confessing to the murder. Apart from the confession the only evidence against the defendant was that of another defendant who became a prosecution witness during the trial. At trial, the defendant claimed that his statement had been made following torture and so was not admissible. The judge rejected the claim of torture but did not consider whether the taking of the defendant from his cells had been for the purpose of informal interrogation, or whether the minister could properly be said to have been acting as an “appropriate adult” for the witnessing of a juvenile’s confession, and allowed the confession to go before the jury. The defendant was convicted of murder. The conviction was upheld by the Court of Appeal of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas. The defendant appealed to the Privy Council on the grounds, inter alia, that the confession should have been excluded under section 20 of the Bahamas Evidence Act as being unreliable, by reason of the defendant having been subjected to unrecorded questioning in the absence of a lawyer or appropriate adult and in any event should have been excluded as unfair under section 178 of the Bahamas Evidence Act.’

WLR Daily, 24th October 2016