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Evidence (Senior Status)


  • Credit value: 15 credits at Level 7
  • Coordinator and lecturer: Piyel Haldar
  • Assessment: a 4000-word essay (100%)

Module description

This module critically examines the diversity of rules and doctrine that compose the law of evidence and determine the presentation of facts in the modern common law trial. Moreover, it examines reasons for the development of the adversarial and exclusionary system of fact finding and examines the effect of these developments on the manner in which decisions are reached in court.

The first part of the course centres on theoretical assumptions made by common lawyers and evidence scholars between facts and truth. This involves a brief examination of the way in which broader influences such as utilitarianism, pragmatism and the emergence of the legal profession have shaped the development of the adversarial trial. We shall also discuss the exclusion or denigration of rhetoric as key to an understanding of modern attitudes towards fact finding.

The course then moves on to focus on the forensic sciences and their place within the rules of evidence. Time will be spent examining the use of documents, photography and surveillance records. The history and development of photography, in particular, will be used as a means to debate the relationship between facts and truth. This examination will then be contrasted with the reliance that has traditionally been placed on oral testimony. Here, we shall provide a critical appraisal of the rules regarding the competency, compellability and character of the witness. Certain classes of testimony, such as corroboration and confessions, will also be examined.

The final part of the course looks more specifically at the exclusionary rules of evidence. We will concentrate largely on certain categories of evidence that have been denied probative value. These include circumstantial evidence, opinion evidence and the sub-category of expert opinion, as well as upon the complex rules relating to hearsay and confessions.

Indicative module content

  • Types of Evidence
  • Admissibility
  • Burdens and Standards of Proof
  • The Adversarial Trail
  • The Witness
  • Character Evidence
  • Expert Evidence
  • Illegally and Unfairly Obtained Evidence
  • Hearsay
  • Silence
  • Confessions
  • Demonstrative Evidence

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • discuss and critically evaluate key concepts, rules and regulations surrounding the admissibility and presentation of evidence
  • demonstrate a nuanced understanding of the evolution of evidence law in general and, where appropriate, the evolution and history of specific rules
  • demonstrate awareness of the problems, tensions and contradictions underlying contemporary debates about the family and the role of law in regulating and defining it
  • formulate a clear, comprehensive and credible research plan and execute the research to which it relates
  • produce an essay that reflects postgraduate level writing that demonstrates critical analysis in an area of the law of evidence.