The Law of Evidence

Module code: M3025
Level 6
30 credits in autumn & spring teaching
Teaching method: Lecture, Seminar
Assessment modes: Essay, Open examination

This module is a study of the law of evidence in England and Wales but we also take the opportunity to examine and assess selected developments in other common law jurisdictions such as Australia, Canada and the USA.

An outline of the history and development of evidence law puts into context the significance of key principles as developed very largely by case-law and, increasingly, now to be found in statutory provisions. From the last quarter of the 20th Century to the present day we examine and assess the significant impact that issues such as re-balancing the interests of victims as against those of defendants plus the rapid development of anti-terrorist legislation aimed at protecting society are having on the fundamental principles of presumption of innocence, burden of proof and right of silence.

The overall objective of a fair trial is considered in both domestic and ECtHR jurisprudence. We also explore the impact of changes over the same period on the worrying prevalence of miscarriages of justice in areas such as confession evidence and eyewitness identification.

The two major exclusionary rules of evidence - bad character and hearsay - are examined in some depth in the latter part of the module and we also address important issues relating to witnesses, such as competence, compellability, special measures for vulnerable or intimidated witnesses and the very vexed question of sexual history evidence. To ensure particularly that the rapidly developing law on bad character and hearsay is as up-to-date as possible, separate handbooks are issued at the start of each main teaching term.

Overall, the aim is to make the module informative, relevant and stimulating.

Module learning outcomes

  • Identify and describe the main doctrines of evidence law
  • Explain the aims and functions of evidence law and the principles, policies and assumptions which shape the law
  • Apply that knowledge and understanding ( 1 & 2 above) to the solution of problems and present reasoned argument on doubtful or controversial points
  • Undertake effective independent research of an issue in evidence law
  • Write about selected issues in the law of evidence in a coherent and informed way