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R v Gould [1968] 2 QB 65

The defendant pleaded guilty to bigamy, then sought to withdraw the guilty plea on taking advice from Counsel on the grounds that at the time of his second marriage he held an honest and reasonable mistaken belief that a decree absolute had been granted dissolving his first marriage. The court refused him to withdraw his guilty plea on the grounds that according to the case of R. v. Wheat (1921 2 King's Bench 119) an honest and reasonable mistaken belief that the marriage had been dissolved was no defence. The defendant appealed.


The appeal was allowed despite the fact that there was a previous Court of Appeal precedent against the defendant.

Diplock LJ:
"In its criminal jurisdiction, which it has inherited from the Court of Criminal Appeal, the Court of Appeal does not apply the doctrine of stare decisis with the same rigidity as in its civil jurisdiction. If upon due consideration we were to be of opinion that the law had been either misapplied or misunderstood in an earlier decision of this Court or its predecessor the Court of Criminal Appeal we should be entitled to depart from the view as to the law expressed in the earlier decision notwithstanding that the case could not be brought within any of the exceptions laid down in Young v. Bristol Aeroplane Company Limited (1944 King's Bench 718) as justifying the Court of Appeal in refusing to follow one of its own decisions in a civil case (R. v. Taylor 1950 2 King's Bench 368). A fortiori we are bound to give effect to the law as we think it is if the previous decision to the contrary effect is one of which the ratio decidendi conflicts with that of other decisions of this Court or its predecessors of co-ordinate jurisdiction."
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