woolmington v dpp


  • The issue brought to that court was whether the statement of law in Foster’s Crown Law was correct when it said that if a death occurred, it is presumed to be murder unless
    proved otherwise.

  • Lord Justice Avory refused leave to appeal, relying on a passage of Foster’s Crown Law (1762): In every charge of murder, the fact of killing being first proved, all the circumstances
    of accident, necessity, or infirmity are to be satisfactorily proved by the prisoner, unless they arise out of the evidence produced against him; for the law presumeth the fact to have been founded in malice, until the contrary appeareth.

  • No matter what the charge or where the trial, the principle that the prosecution must prove the guilt of the prisoner is part of the common law of England and no attempt to
    whittle it down can be entertained.

  • If, at the end of and on the whole of the case, there is a reasonable doubt, created by the evidence given by either the prosecution or the prisoner… the prosecution has
    not made out the case and the prisoner is entitled to an acquittal.

  • Stating the judgment for a unanimous Court, Viscount Sankey made his famous “Golden thread” speech: Throughout the web of the English Criminal Law one golden thread is always
    to be seen that it is the duty of the prosecution to prove the prisoner’s guilt subject to… the defence of insanity and subject also to any statutory exception.

  • [This quote needs a citation] He spent much time contrasting the position under the criminal law at the time when the decisions relied upon in Foster’s Crown Law were handed
    down, and latest precedent.

  • [1] Woolmington v Director of Public Prosecutions; Court: House of Lords; Full case name: Reginald Woolmington v Director for Public Prosecutions; Decided: 23 May 1935; Citation(s):
    [1935] UKHL 1, [1935] AC 462, (1936) 25 Cr App R 72; Legislation cited: Criminal Appeal Act 1907 s. 1, Criminal Appeal Act 1907 s. 4, Criminal Evidence Act 1898; Court membership: Judge(s) sitting: Viscount Sankey, Lord Hewart, Lord Atkin,
    Lord Tomlin, Lord Wright; Keywords: Burden of proof in crime, Intention and evidence of possible accident, Jury directions, Murder Facts Reginald Woolmington was a 21-year-old farm labourer from Castleton, Dorset.

  • At his first trial, heard at the Taunton Assizes in January 1935, Woolmington made for the first time his claim about the gun accidentally discharging.

  • [2] At the Bristol Assizes, Judge Swift ruled that the case was so strong against him that the burden of proof was on him to show that the shooting was accidental.

  • Moreover it was not until 1898 in the post-Civil War system that the accused who was not a peer or barrister was permitted to give evidence on their own behalf.

  • It was only when it was repeated to him for the third time that his conviction had been quashed that he appeared to understand that he had been reprieved.


Works Cited

[‘”What is the golden thread of criminal law?”. Study.com. Retrieved 10 December 2019.
2. ^ Crosby, K (20 July 2022). “”Well, the burden never shifts, but it does”: celebrity, property offences and judicial innovation in Woolmington v DPP”. Legal Studies:
1–18. doi:10.1017/lst.2022.25.
3. ^ Brian Block, John Hostettler (2002). Famous Cases: Nine Trials That Changed the Law. Waterside Press. p. 40. ISBN 9781906534158.
4. ^ Jump up to:a b Brian Block, John Hostettler (2002). Famous Cases: Nine Trials
That Changed the Law. Waterside Press. p. 48. ISBN 9781906534158.
5. ^ “Q: Woolmington v D.P.P (English law case)”. Google Answers. Retrieved 8 October 2017.
6. ^ “Reginald Woolmington”. Ancestry.com. Retrieved 8 October 2017.
7. ^ 38 NILQ 224
8. ^
Jump up to:a b Brian Block, John Hostettler (2002). Famous Cases: Nine Trials That Changed the Law. Waterside Press. p. 51. ISBN 9781906534158.
Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/leehaywood/4942258704/’]