The Criminal Evidence Act 1898
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It has been seen that the accused’s good character is admissible for the purpose of bolstering his credibility as a witness and to show he has a law-abiding propensity (3.4 ante). It has also been seen that evidence of the accused’s propensity in other respects (that is, similar fact evidence of his bad character) is inadmissible unless its probative value is sufficiently high to justify its admission despite the risk of any undue prejudice (3.3 ante). Section 1 of the Criminal Evidence Act 1898 governs, inter alia, the extent to which the accused may be cross-examined on his bad character to undermine his credibility as a witness. Unlike admissible similar fact evidence, which is directly relevant to whether the accused is guilty of the offence charged, such cross-examination is only indirectly relevant to his guilt. It is intended to show that because of his dissolute character his testimony, and therefore his defence, should not be believed by the jury or magistrates.
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