ON 6 DECEMBER 1989, the High Court of Australia delivered Longman v R  HCA 60; (1989) 168 CLR 79 (6 December 1989).
Complaints of unlawfully and indecently dealing with or assaulting three girls under the age of 14 years were made against Longman (the appellant) at a time over 20 years after the alleged offences. At trial, the jury were told to consider the “relative credibility of the complainant and the appellant without either a warning or a mention of the factors relevant to the evaluation of the evidence”.
The High Court held that what the jury was told was not sufficient.
Per Brennan, Dawson and Toohey JJ at :
“The jury should have been told that, as the evidence of the complainant could not be adequately tested after the passage of more than 20 years, it would be dangerous to convict on that evidence alone unless the jury, scrutinizing the evidence with great care, considering the circumstances relevant to its evaluation and paying heed to the warning, were satisfied of its truth and accuracy. To leave a jury without such a full appreciation of the danger was to risk a miscarriage of justice.”
The High Court ordered a retrial because the absence of a warning made the conviction “unsafe and unsatisfactory”.
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