Trial - Verdicts - Robbery - Logical inconsistency

R v Mohammed: Court of Appeal, Criminal Division: 23 September 2011

The defendant and co-defendant, D, having consumed alcohol, went to a park where a number of youths had gathered. The two groups had a discussion. At some point, D took out a knife and walked along a row of people demanding that they hand over their mobile phones. The defendant and D were subsequently arrested. They were tried for two counts of robbery (counts one and two) and for one count of having a bladed article (count three).

The prosecution case against the defendant was that he had been party to a joint enterprise to commit robbery with D, in that when D had required the victims to hand over their phones, the defendant had taken out a knife and waved it at the victims in support of D as part of the joint enterprise. The defendant's case was that he and D had been drinking, that he had seen D with the knife committing robbery but that he had not had a knife and had not taken part in, or encouraged, the robbery.

The judge summed up the case in line with the prosecution case, namely that the jury had to be sure that the defendant had produced a knife to convict him of the robberies. The defendant was convicted at a retrial of the two counts of robbery, for which he was sentenced to two years' imprisonment. He was acquitted of having a bladed article. D pleaded guilty to the two counts of robbery and to having a bladed article, for which he was sentenced to two years' imprisonment. The defendant appealed against conviction.

He submitted that the verdicts were logically inconsistent in that the only evidence to support the prosecution's case on joint enterprise was the fact that he had allegedly taken out a knife and had waved it at the victims. The robbery counts had been based on the premise that he had had a knife, whereas the jury had to have rejected that in acquitting him of having a bladed article. The appeal would be allowed.

In the instant case, the verdict of the jury on count three, acquitting the defendant of having a bladed article, was inconsistent with the verdicts on counts one and two, namely robbery, and could not stand. Whilst it was true that a defendant could participate in a robbery as part of a joint enterprise without having a knife, in the light of the evidence in the instant case, and the judge's summing up, there was an inconsistency in the verdicts.  

Once the jury had not been satisfied that the defendant had had a knife at the relevant time, as was implicit in the verdict on count three, it had not been open to it to convict on counts one and two. The convictions would be quashed.

Christopher Geeson (assigned by the Registrar of Criminal Appeals) for the defendant.Laura Pitman (instructed by the Crown Prosecution Service) for the Crown.