R v Looseley  UKHL 53,  1 WLR 2060 is a legal case that involves the consideration of the principle of entrapment in the context of criminal law. The judgment is presented in the form of opinions from several Lords, including Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead and Lord Mackay of Clashfern.
The case revolves around the concept of entrapment, where law enforcement officials induce or encourage individuals to commit crimes that they might not have committed otherwise. The defendant, Looseley, was alleged to have committed a crime as a result of the actions of undercover police officers.
Lord Nicholls stressed that every court has an inherent duty to prevent the abuse of its process. This duty is crucial to maintaining the rule of law, ensuring that state agents do not misuse their power to oppress citizens.
The Lord articulated that entrapment is not acceptable, as it involves the state luring its citizens into committing crimes and then prosecuting them for those actions. This is seen as a misuse of state power and an abuse of the judicial process.
Lord Nicholls acknowledged the difficulty in defining acceptable police conduct, especially in cases involving consensual crimes committed in private. He noted that there are instances where some degree of active police involvement in the commission of a crime is generally regarded as acceptable, citing examples such as test purchases.
Lord Nicholls also reviewed the historical development of remedies for entrapment in common law countries, noting that while entrapment is not a substantive defence in English law, remedies have been established, including the power to stay criminal proceedings and the power to exclude evidence under section 78 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.
The role of the courts is seen as standing between the state and its citizens to ensure that the state does not misuse its power. Entrapment is viewed as an instance where the court should protect citizens from improper state conduct. Lords Hoffman and Hutton identified certain factors to be considered when deciding whether to stay proceedings against a defendant, including:
- Whether the police acted in good faith.
- Whether the police had good reason to suspect the accused of criminal activities.
- Whether the police suspected that crime was particularly prevalent in the area of the investigation.
- Whether pro-active investigatory techniques were necessary due to the secrecy and difficulty of detecting the criminal activity.
- The defendant's circumstances and vulnerability.
- The nature of the offence.
Lord Nicholls considered whether the judicial discretion conferred by section 78 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 or the court's power to stay proceedings had been modified by Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights. He concluded that there was no significant difference between the requirements of Article 6 ECHR and English law.
In summary, this case addresses the issues surrounding entrapment, discusses the need to prevent abuse of the legal process, defines acceptable police conduct, and considers the remedies available in cases of entrapment. The judgment reflects the court's commitment to upholding the rule of law and protecting individuals from improper state conduct.