Directed verdicts

A trial judge has the power to direct that a jury return a verdict of not guilty once it is established that the Defendant has “no case to answer”

A trial judge has the power to direct that a jury return a verdict of not guilty once it is established that the Defendant has “no case to answer” – that is to say, once it is established that the Defendant could not lawfully be convicted of the offence on the available evidence.

This does not, however, permit a judge to weigh whether a conviction would be “unsafe and unsatisfactory”. If the evidence is “capable of supporting a verdict of guilty, the matter must be left to the jury for its decision.” (Doney v R [1990] HCA 51).

An application for a for a directed verdict can be made as early as the close of the evidence in chief of a complainant, where the Crown case is “wholly dependent on the evidence of the complainant.“

It should be noted that any directed verdict is appealable pursuant to s107(2) of the Crimes (Appeal and Review) Act 2001 and, should the appeal be successful, a new trial may be ordered.

May v O’Sullivan

May v O'Sullivan [1955] HCA 38; (1955) 92 CLR 654

“When, at the close of the case for the prosecution, a submission is made that there is "no case to answer", the question to be decided is not whether on the evidence as it stands the defendant ought to be convicted, but whether on the evidence as it stands he could lawfully be convicted. This is really a question of law.”