Leung v The State of Western Australia [2020] WASCA 81

In brief:
The appellant was convicted of three offences at trial. The appellant appealed on the basis that the trial judge misdirected the jury in relation to the appellant’s alleged lie that he had not been into a particular room. The appellant argued that the lie was not capable of being allocated to any particular charge as an implied admission of guilt (an ‘Edwards lie’) and should have been left to the jury as a lie that was only capable of affecting the appellant’s credit. The Court of Appeal found that the trial judge did not misdirect the jury and therefore dismissed the appeal.

In a joint judgment, Mazza and Beech JJA identified that an ‘element of the appellant’s submission is that, unless the lie could be connected to a particular offence and shown to amount to an admission of the guilt of that offence, there was no room for using the lie as an implied admission of anything’ ([73]). Their honours restated the principle that a ‘lie need not reveal knowledge of the whole of an offence’, and that ‘it is sufficient if it reveals knowledge of some aspect of it, including some circumstance or event connected with it’ ([74]). Applying that principle to the present case, their honours found that ‘the appellant’s lie as to whether he had been in the room was probative, as part of a circumstantial case, of whether he had knowledge of the safe and its contents… Whether the appellant had such knowledge was material to whether he had the necessary knowledge to establish his possession of each of the methylamphetamine, the sum of cash and the firearm’ ([76]). The lie was therefore capable of being probative in relation to each of the three offences, and whether it was to be taken as an implied admission of guilt in relation to each offence was a matter for the jury to decide ([77]). Their honours found that the trial judge’s directions to the jury were adequate in the circumstances.

Buss P’s judgment is to similar effect, noting that ‘it was plainly open to the jury to be satisfied that the appellant’s alleged lie constituted a denial by the appellant of ever having been in the master bedroom; that the alleged lie was a deliberate lie told out of a consciousness of guilt to conceal the appellant’s knowledge of and involvement with the contents of the safe; and that the alleged lie was probative of the appellant’s knowledge, and sole or non‑exclusive possession, of all of the drugs, the cash and the revolver in the safe’ ([66]). Therefore it was not a lie that was only capable of going to credit – it was capable of ‘constituting an implied admission against interest in relation to all of the illicit items in the safe’ ([67]).

This case is of interest in identifying the outer limits of lies that are capable of being taken as implied admissions of guilt. Taken with previous authorities, this case is useful to establish the nature and degree of connection required between the lie and the event.

The judgment:
The judgment was delivered on 27 May 2020. You can access it here. See especially paragraphs [65]-[70] (Buss P); [71]-[83] (Mazza and Beech JJA).