The QCA and the Law as to Overturning an Unreasonable Verdict
In the recent decision in R v SDI  QCA 67 (18 April 2023) the QCA provided a concise summary of the law relating to overturning an unreasonable verdict. Morrison JA said (and with whom Mullins P and Flanagan JA agreed) at  – :
Ground 1 – unreasonable verdicts
 The legal principles applicable where the ground is that the verdict was unreasonable are well known. They were recently restated in Dansie v The Queen. Dansie reaffirmed the approach set out in M v The Queen.
 The Court reaffirmed the relevant task as being that laid down in M v The Queen:
“ That understanding of the function to be performed by a court of criminal appeal in determining an appeal on the unreasonable verdict ground of a common form criminal appeal statute was settled by this Court in M. The reasoning in the joint judgment in that case establishes that “the question which the court must ask itself” when performing that function is “whether it thinks that upon the whole of the evidence it was open to the jury to be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the accused was guilty”, that question being “one of fact which the court must decide by making its own independent assessment of the evidence”.
 The joint judgment in M made clear that “in answering that question the court must not disregard or discount either the consideration that the jury is the body entrusted with the primary responsibility of determining guilt or innocence, or the consideration that the jury has had the benefit of having seen and heard the witnesses”. The joint judgment equally made clear how those considerations are to impact on the court’s independent assessment of the evidence. That was the point of the carefully crafted passage in which their Honours stated:
“It is only where a jury’s advantage in seeing and hearing the evidence is capable of resolving a doubt experienced by a court of criminal appeal that the court may conclude that no miscarriage of justice occurred [on the unreasonable verdict ground]. That is to say, where the evidence lacks credibility for reasons which are not explained by the manner in which it was given, a reasonable doubt experienced by the court is a doubt which a reasonable jury ought to have experienced. If the evidence, upon the record itself, contains discrepancies, displays inadequacies, is tainted or otherwise lacks probative force in such a way as to lead the court of criminal appeal to conclude that, even making full allowance for the advantages enjoyed by a jury, there is a significant possibility that an innocent person has been convicted, then the court is bound to act and to set aside a verdict based upon that evidence. In doing so, the court is not substituting trial by a court of appeal for trial by jury, for the ultimate question must always be whether the court thinks that upon the whole of the evidence it was open to the jury to be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the accused was guilty.”
 The High Court also said:
“ The authoritative guidance to be gained from the joint judgment in M has not diminished with time. M was unanimously affirmed in MFA v The Queen and again in SKA v The Queen, where it was spelt out that the “test set down in M” required a court of criminal appeal to undertake an “independent assessment of the evidence, both as to its sufficiency and its quality” and that consideration of what might be labelled “jury” questions does not lie beyond the scope of that assessment. Coughlan v The Queen illustrates that an independent assessment of the evidence in a case in which the evidence at trial was substantially circumstantial requires the court of criminal appeal itself “to weigh all the circumstances in deciding whether it was open to the jury to draw the ultimate inference that guilt has been proved to the criminal standard” and in so doing to form its own judgment as to whether “the prosecution has failed to exclude an inference consistent with innocence that was reasonably open”.”
 In Pell v The Queen, the Hight Court said:
“ The function of the court of criminal appeal in determining a ground that contends that the verdict of the jury is unreasonable or cannot be supported having regard to the evidence, in a case such as the present, proceeds upon the assumption that the evidence of the complainant was assessed by the jury to be credible and reliable. The court examines the record to see whether, notwithstanding that assessment – either by reason of inconsistencies, discrepancies, or other inadequacy; or in light of other evidence – the court is satisfied that the jury, acting rationally, ought nonetheless to have entertained a reasonable doubt as to proof of guilt.”
 In R v Miller, this Court said:
“ An appellant who contends that the verdict of the jury was unreasonable or that it was unsupported by the evidence must identify the weaknesses in the evidence and must then also demonstrate that these weaknesses reduced the probative value of the evidence in such a way that the appellate court ought to conclude that even making full allowance for the advantages enjoyed by the jury there is a significant possibility that an innocent person has been convicted. The mere identification of weaknesses in the prosecution case is not enough to sustain the ground. As Brennan J said in M v The Queen, and as criminal practitioners and trial judges know very well, it is a sad but salutary experience of counsel for the defence that the prosecution’s “weak point” is often brushed aside dismissively by a jury satisfied of the honesty of the prosecution witness.”
A link to the decision is at R v SDI  QCA 67 (sclqld.org.au)
 Dansie at –. Citations omitted.
 Dansie at . Citations omitted.
 (2020) 268 CLR 123 at . Citations omitted.