R v G; R v J [2009] UKHL 13

Detailed explanation of elements of, and defences to, s57 and s58 Terrorism Act 2000. It was not a "reasonable excuse" for G to possess terrorist material to wind up prison guards; he was responsible for his actions (applying M'Naghten's case [1843] UKHL J16) and his schizophrenia could not make reasonable what was unreasonable.


The ICLR have kindly agreed for their WLR (D) case report to be reproduced below.  


CRIME — Terrorism — Collecting information of kind likely to be useful to terrorist — Possessing articles for terrorist purposes — Possessing information of kind likely to be useful to terrorist — Burden on prosecution — Mental illness and purpose for collecting information — Whether capable of amounting to “reasonable excuse” — Terrorism Act 2000, ss 57(1)(2), 58(1)(3), 118(2)


To rely on the defence in s 58(3) of the Terrorism Act 2000 a defendant had to show an objectively “reasonable excuse” for his action or possession and a ruling that neither a desire to “wind up” prison officers nor mental illness could amount to a reasonable excuse had been correct.

The House of Lords so held in allowing appeals by the Crown from the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) (Rix LJ, Henriques J, Sir Richard Curtis) in R v G [2008] EWCA Crim 922B, which had allowed G’s appeal from a ruling of Pitchford J in the Crown Court at Woolwich, and from the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) (Sir Igor Judge P, Aikens and Swift JJ) in R v J [2008] EWCA Crim 1161Not on Bailii!, which had dismissed the Crown’s appeal from a ruling of Judge Chapman, Recorder of Birmingham, in the Crown Court at Birmingham.

THE COMMITTEE, in a report prepared by Lord Rodger of Earlsferry, said that G had been charged with collecting information of a kind that was likely to be useful to a terrorist, contrary to s 58 of the 2000 Act. His explanation for his actions had been that he had wanted to “wind up” prison officers because they were provoking him. He had also been diagnosed as suffering from mental illness. The judge had held that those matters were not capable in law of amounting to a defence of “reasonable excuse” under s 58(3). The Court of Appeal had held, regarding itself as bound by its decision in R v K [2008] QB 827B, that collecting the material to wind up the officers would be a reasonable excuse. In J’s case, the judge, regarding himself as similarly bound, had ruled that in the event that J raised evidentially at trial that he had had a reasonable excuse for his possession of records of information, contrary to s 58, it would be necessary for the prosecution to prove that his possession had been “for a purpose ... to assist in the preparation or commission of an act of terrorism”. Under s 58(1), the Crown had to prove that the defendant had known that he had the document or record, that he had had control of it and that he had been aware of the kind of information that it contained, but there was nothing that required it to show that he had had a terrorist purpose. Under s 57(1), by contrast, the circumstances of the defendant’s possession formed one of the crucial elements of the offence. The jury had under s 57(2) to acquit him if he proved that his possession had not been for a terrorist purpose even though they were satisfied that the circumstances of his possession gave rise to a reasonable suspicion that it had been. As to the defence of reasonable excuse in s 58(3), the Court of Appeal in R v K had wrongly substituted for that defence one that was, in substance, a reproduction of the defence in s 57(2). It robbed “reasonable” of all substance. The defendant had to show that he had had an objectively reasonable excuse. An intention to use information in connection with a bank robbery might be an explanation of his possession but could not be a reasonable excuse for it. Neither G’s desire to wind up prison officers nor his mental illness could be a reasonable excuse for his actions and the judge’s ruling had been right. The judge’s ruling in J’s case had been wrong.


R v G; R v J [2009] UKHL 13B; [2009] WLR (D) 80

HL(E): Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, Lord Rodger of Earlsferry, Baroness Hale of Richmond, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, Lord Mance: 4 March 2009

Appearances: David Perry QC and William Hays (Crown Prosecution Service) for the Crown in G’s case; Mark Heywood and Ben Temple (Crown Prosecution Service) for the Crown in J’s case; Ian Leist and Emily Dummett (Smith Partnership, Burton on Trent) for G; Lawrence McNulty and Peter Lownds (Tuckers) for J.

Reported by: Michael Gardner, barrister

External link


ICLR [2009] WLR (D) 80