Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Principles of Evidence
Academic Year
Semester 2
GF10110/LA10110 or LA14230/GF14230 or LA14720/GF14720 GF30110/LA30110 or LA34230/GF34230 or LA34720/GF34720 or LA15710
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Seminar 3 x 2 Hour Seminars
Lecture 16 x 1 Hour Lectures


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Essay  of 2,000 words  100%
Supplementary Assessment Essay  of 2,000 words  100%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

Learn to identify, understand and explain the main rules of evidence.
Understand the theories and principles underlying these rules.
Critically analyse the effictiveness of the law.
Identify evidential issues in problem scenarios, state the applicable principles and apply them to a novel fact scenario.
Critically debate issues and present a balanced and coherent argument.

Brief description

The law of evidence governs the methods by which matters may be proved for the purposes of legal proceedings. It is therefore a subject of considerable practical importance, and one which impinges on almost every other area of law. Having the substantive law on your side (or on the side of your client) will be of little use if you cannot persuade the court or jury to believe your version of the facts, but you cannot do this unless you know what evidence will be acceptable to the court, and how it may be presented. English law does not apply the continental doctrine of "free appreciation of evidence". Instead, it applies a number of strict rules, prohibiting the use of certain kinds of evidence, even in some cases where common sense might suggest that they would be highly relevant. Other rules govern the examination and cross-examination of witnesses, and determine whether the testimony of a particular witness requires corroboration or support before it can be relied upon. These rules are often open to serious criticism, but must nevertheless be identified and understood. If an original document has been lost, will the court accept a copy instead? Will it accept the evidence of a young child? If an alleged rapist has previous convictions for sexual assault, should the jury be told? Would it make any difference if he was claiming to be of good character? Can inferences be drawn from the failure of a defendant to testify at his trial, or from his failure to answer questions following arrest? Does it matter whether evidence has been obtained by improper means? Should it matter, and if so why? The law of evidence also prescribes the allocation of the burden of proof as between the parties to litigation, and the standard of proof that must be satisfied. As a general rule, it is for the prosecution to discharge the burden of proof in criminal cases, and for the plaintiff or petitioner to do so in civil cases; but the general rule is littered with express and implied exceptions, which can make the study of this topic anything but straightforward.


The course has a practical bias, and a strong bias towards the criminal side of the law, where the most acute evidence problems arise, and from which the vast majority of reported evidence cases originate. The course aims to ensure that students learn to identify, understand and explain the main rules of evidence. The theories or principles underlying the various rules are explained (where these can be identified) and students are encouraged to look critically at both the rules and the theories. Some psychology is involved; but this is not a strongly theoretical course. On completion of the course, students will be expected to demonstrate a wide general knowledge of the English law of evidence.


The course will be taught by the usual system of lectures and seminars. The lectures will provide an introduction to the various topics, together with a fairly significant amount of detailed information, criticism and analysis. The handouts do not, however, include detailed case summaries, and must not be seen as substitutes for library research or textbooks. Seminars will provide students with the opportunity to examine particular areas in greater detail, and will provide practical guidance on problem solving.

Principle Topics included in the Syllabus:

1. Introduction to the Law of Evidence

2. Relevance, Proof and Facts

3. The Burden of Proof

4. Identification Evidence

5. Confessions

6. Illegally, Improperly and Unfairly Obtained Evidence

7. Evidence of Bad Character


This module is at CQFW Level 6