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The Purpose of the Law of Criminal Evidence

The law of criminal evidence provide a body of rules which prescribe the ways in which evidence is presented in a criminal trial. The rules also regulate how the prosecution puts its case to the court. Rules of evidence are also there to ensure that the accused has a fair trial.

Facts in issue: These are identified by looking at the actus reus and mens rea of the crimes of which the defendant is charged. For instance in the case of theft, the actus reus is appropriating property belonging to another. The mens rea is acting dishonestly with the intention to deprive. It is of course the prosecution's duty to prove the defendant's guilt beyond reasonable doubt and in order to do so each element of the actus rea and mens rea must be proved. When discussing issues of evidence there are three core concepts, relevance, admissibility and weight.

Relevance: What is relevant is normally common sense and where there is a dispute between the parties, this should be settled by the judge.

Admissibility: Evidence will be admissible unless specifically excluded under a mandatory rule of exclusion or if the court exercises its discretion to ensure the defendant enjoys a fair trial. The manner in which evidence has been obtained will directly impact its admissibility and this is particularly true of confession or identification evidence. Where there is a question of admissibility it would be for a judge to decide and admitting disputed evidence could be a ground for appeal against conviction

Weight: Where the evidence is relevant and admissible the judge must still decide what weight to give it. The weight to attach to a particular piece of evidence is a matter for the jury or magistrates. In relation to identification evidence in particular the judge has a duty to warn the jury about the dangers of relying on some types of identification evidence. In the event that the judge does not give the appropriate warning and the defendant is convicted this may give sufficient grounds for an appeal.

Assessing the Evidence:  The CPS lawyer's role is to assess the evidence that the police have gathered and decide whether it is sufficient for a conviction. Through pre trial disclosure the defence solicitor will know the case against the client and can then assess it against the rules of relevance, admissibility and weight. Where evidence is disputed this is usually ironed out in a procedure known as a voir dire- a trial within a trial. The judge will hear evidence from both prosecution and defence about the how the evidence was obtained, apply the relevant law and then decide whether or not to admit the evidence. If the judge decides that the evidence must be excluded the jury would never be told of its existence.

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Types of Evidence:


This is the art of communication by putting forward concise and coherent argument. The following are important points to bear in mind.

Investigation and Charge

Stop and search before arrest: This is governed by s1 of PACE and code A. A person may be stopped and searched in a public place or a place to which the public has access where the officer reasonably suspects the person is in possession of stolen articles or prohibited articles.

Searching the suspect after arrest: This can happen with the suspects consent or under s32 of PACE where the officer has

Search of premises after arrest:  The police may search the suspect's premises either with:

Police Officer Arrest without a warrant:  Where the police officer has reasonable grounds for suspecting that the person is about to, is committing or has committed an offence and it is necessary to arrest the individual for any of the following reasons listed in s24 (5) :

A lawful arrest according to s28 PACE must include the following:

  1. A legal ground for arrest s24 PACE 1984
  2. Reasonable grounds for believing that an offence has been committed
  3. The police must caution the suspect as follows:

"You do not have to say anything. But it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence"

  1. The suspect must be informed of the reason for his arrest
  2. The suspect should be taken to a designated police station as soon as possible

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