Evidence pp 244-259 | Cite as

Evidence Obtained by Unlawful or Unfair Means

  • Raymond Emson
Part of the Macmillan Law Masters book series


The admissibility of unlawfully obtained evidence was addressed by the Privy Council in the original leading case of Kuruma v. R [1955] AC 197 PC. Kuruma had been searched by Kenyan police officers and, it was alleged, found to be in unlawful possession of two rounds of ammunition, a capital offence under the Emergency Regulations then in force. The law provided that only an officer of or above the rank of assistant inspector could lawfully search persons suspected of being in possession of ammunition, yet neither officer involved was of such rank. Consequently the evidence purportedly found on Kuruma had been obtained unlawfully and he appealed against his conviction on the ground that it should not have been admitted. Dismissing the appeal Lord Goddard cj said (at pp. 203–4):

‘In their Lordships’ opinion the test to be applied in considering whether evidence is admissible is whether it is relevant to the matters in issue. If it is, it is admissible and the court is not concerned with how the evidence was obtained…. There can be no difference in principle for this purpose between a civil and a criminal case. No doubt in a criminal case the judge always has a discretion to disallow evidence if the strict rules of admissibility would operate unfairly against an accused…. If, for instance, some admission of some piece of evidence, e.g. a document, had been obtained from a defendant by a trick, no doubt the judge might properly rule it out.’


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© Raymond Emson 1999

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  • Raymond Emson

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