Evidence pp 260-295 | Cite as

Safeguards against Unreliability and Error

  • Raymond Emson
Part of the Macmillan Law Masters book series


It has been seen that hearsay evidence is, as a rule, inadmissible in criminal proceedings on account of its generally unreliable nature and, more important, because it is not possible to cross-examine the person who made the statement to test the reliability of his evidence (5.2 ante). There are, of course, exceptions to the hearsay rule which permit the adduction of some such evidence, but even then the judge is obliged to point out any specific weaknesses associated with it to ensure the jury are equipped to assess its true probative value (6.3 ante). The need to give some form of direction or cautionary warning to the jury arises in respect of other types of evidence too, either on account of its inherent unreliability or because of some other danger associated with it, but, unlike hearsay evidence, no blanket exclusionary rule applies and the jury will usually be entitled to consider such evidence at the end of the trial (save that it may need to be supported by other evidence). Alternatively, if the evidence comes from a potentially unreliable source, the law may instead require the adduction of other evidence to prove the source itself is reliable. Proof of the reliability of the source is thus a condition precedent to the admissibility of the evidence emanating from it.


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© Raymond Emson 1999

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  • Raymond Emson

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