What is Evidence Law?, by Roxanne Amihere

The law of evidence has been one of the most intriguing, thought provoking and demanding subjects I’ve taken as a law student. To give you an idea the law of evidence is taken up by barristers and solicitor advocates in determining whether a victim is innocent or not.

In evidence law, a statement that is not made by the claimant is hearsay and inadmissible in court, so for example if A is assaulted by B and C makes a statement to the court saying he saw the incident happen, it would not be accepted in court. The reason being it is thought to be unreliable evidence.

So, what happens if A is badly injured as a result of the assault and dies? What happens if the court is left with the only evidence made by C; the person who witnessed the assault?

Under the ‘sole and decisive rule’ the English courts ruled that hearsay evidence in (R v Horncastle) would only be admissible and accepted in court when it could be proved that the witness could not be brought forward on the account that he or she feared for their life testifying against the defendant.

It would not be admissible and unaccepted in court if it was the ONLY evidence the prosecution had against the defendant since he couldn’t challenge the credibility of the evidence in court.

In class we took a step by step review of this issue in Al-Khawaja v Taherry (2011). Mr. Al-Khawaja alleged that his trial for indecent assault had been unfair because the woman who made complaints against him died before the trial and her statement to the police was read to the jury.

Would the Grand Chamber accept that the statement read to the court against Al-Khawaja was fair? The victim had complained to her friends and they came to court to testify on her behalf. Would the cross-examination of another victim with the same injuries be fair?

Again, in Mr. Taherry’s case would genuine fear be sufficient justification for admitting the witness’s statement?

Analyzing the Criminal Justice Act and the judgments of the European Grand Chamber gives you an insight into what the courts will and will not tolerate under hearsay.

These issues are only the tip of the legal iceberg and what I would say a captivating area of law.

To comment on this Blog or contact Roxanne please write to blogs@elephantminds.co.uk