R v Horncastle
Supreme Court of the United Kingdom
CourtSupreme Court of the United Kingdom
Full case nameR v Horncastle and Blackmore,
R v Marquis and Graham
Decided9 December 2009
Citation(s)[2009] UKSC 14
Case history
Prior action(s)On appeal from the Court of Appeal [2009] EWCA Crim 964
Related action(s)Al-Khawaja and Tahery v United Kingdom European Court of Human Rights (2009) 49 EHRR 1
Court membership
Judge(s) sittingLord Phillips (President), Lady Hale, Lord Brown, Lord Mance, Lord Neuberger, Lord Kerr, Lord Judge (Lord Chief Justice)

R v Horncastle and others [2009] UKSC 14 is a criminal case decided by the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom concerning the admissibility as evidence of statements by witnesses not called to give evidence at trial and the compatibility of this with Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which concerns the right to a fair trial.


The appellants in the case were two pairs of men, each convicted of serious criminal offences. Horncastle and Blackmore had been convicted[1] of causing grievous bodily harm to a man, Peter Rice, while Marquis and Graham had kidnapped a young woman, Hannah Miles.[2] Rice had died before the trial although not as a result of the assault, whilst Miles had run away the day before the trial of Marquis and Graham, being too frightened to give evidence. Although neither of the victims was therefore called to give evidence at the respective trials, statements they had made about the incidents were admitted as evidence.

Court of AppealEdit

Both pairs of men were convicted of the respective offences but appealed against conviction to the Court of Appeal, claiming admission of the respective victims' statements under the Criminal Justice Act 2003 without the opportunity to challenge the witnesses themselves in court was hearsay which violated their right to a fair trial under Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The appeals, along with a third (R v Carter) on related but different grounds, were heard on 24 March 2009 by Lord Justice Thomas (Vice-President of the Queen's Bench Division), Lord Justice Hughes, Mr Justice Penry-Davey, Mr Justice Irwin and Mr Justice Wyn Williams.[3] On 22 May, Lord Justice Thomas delivered the judgement of the Court, denying both appeals. The third appeal was successful.

The Court of Appeal found that Article 6(3)(d) of the Convention (Everyone charged with a criminal offence has the following minimum rights: (d) to examine or have examined witnesses against him and to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on his behalf under the same conditions as witnesses against him) did not afford an absolute right to confront prosecution witnesses, and that, as long as the trial were fair, this right could be restricted in some circumstances. This would be the case where the admission of the evidence were legitimately justified and where appropriate counterbalancing measure meant the defendant were not placed at an unfair disadvantage.

Lord Phillips stated that the Supreme Court's judgement "should be read as complementary to that of the Court of Appeal, not as a substitute for it."[4]

Supreme CourtEdit

The Supreme Court


The members of the Court were Lord Phillips, President of the Supreme Court, Baroness Hale, Lord Brown, Lord Mance, Lord Neuberger, Lord Kerr and Lord Judge, Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales. Lord Neuberger had by the time of delivery of the judgement (9 December 2009) been appointed Master of the Rolls, the second-most senior judge in England and Wales, after the Lord Chief Justice, but had participated in the original hearing of the case whilst still a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary. Neuberger and Judge participated in the case under section 38 of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005, which permits senior territorial judges to act as a judge of the Court at the invitation of the Court's President.[5]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "R v Horncastle: judgement" (PDF). Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. 9 December 2009. para.2. Retrieved 23 January 2011.
  2. ^ "R v Horncastle: judgement" (PDF). Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. 9 December 2009. para.3. Retrieved 23 January 2011.
  3. ^ [2009] 2 Cr. App. R. 15
  4. ^ "R v Horncastle: judgement" (PDF). Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. 9 December 2009. para.13. Retrieved 23 January 2011.
  5. ^ Constitutional Reform Act 2005 section 38