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EVALUATING EVIDENCE

Evidence must be accurate, reliable, and probable. When evaluating evidence, don’t look at any evidence in isolation – look at it together, and follow the formula:


(a) Is the evidence necessary to prove the essential elements of the transgression?

(b) Is the evidence probable?

(c) How reliable are the witnesses who gave the evidence?

(d) Are there any contradictions?

(e) Is the witness independent or should caution be taken in assessing the evidence?

(f) Is the evidence confined to facts as opposed to opinions?


You may try to form an opinion regarding the credibility of the witness. Spend time examining their evidence and check the facts that they testify to – don’t accept it at face value.


Ask clarifying questions – if necessary and feasible, ask for a site inspection. Be especially careful when it comes to a witness identifying the culprit – “I saw John take it and put it in the boot of their care”. Make sure that it was possible for the witness to have seen what they testify to. Ask them “where were they standing at the time? Where was John? Where was the article you say they took? Where was their car parked?”


If a witness testifies to something they overheard, make sure it was possible for them to have overheard it. Where were they standing? Where were the other people standing? Was it in a quiet area or was there a lot of machine noise around there at the time? Remember the rules regarding hearsay evidence. Be especially careful of evidence given by a person you believe to be a witness when they may in fact be an accomplice. In evaluating evidence, you must apply the principle of the balance of probability, therefore, ask yourself, - on the balance of probability, do I accept this evidence as being the more likely version?


Is there any other evidence that I have that could contradict this piece of evidence that I am presently examining, or are more credible? What are the possibilities of the other side being able to successfully dispute this evidence, or present a more believable version at the hearing?




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