Hearsay, text messages and other forms of communication in criminal proceedings
Hearsay, text messages and other forms of communication in criminal proceedings

The following Corporate Crime guidance note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Hearsay, text messages and other forms of communication in criminal proceedings
  • Is a text message or voice message hearsay?
  • Text messages and calls as circumstantial evidence
  • Proving the identity of a caller
  • Confessions by text

Is a text message or voice message hearsay?

Text messages or other messages retrieved from a mobile phone can play an important part in a criminal trial. In a drugs case, for example, messages found in the inbox of a defendant's mobile phone from callers asking to buy drugs may undermine a denial that the defendant is involved in the supply of drugs.

Similarly a defendant accused of sexual assault may find his defence contradicted by incriminating texts sent to the complainant after an alleged assault.

Whether or not text messages or other forms of communication via mobile telephones, can be classified as hearsay evidence, will depend on the facts of each case.

The starting point is to ask whether the message is caught by the statutory definition of hearsay contained in the Criminal Justice Act 2003 (CJA 2003).

If the statutory definition is not satisfied, the message will not be hearsay and it will be unnecessary to establish one or more of the grounds of admissibility set out in the CJA 2003.

See Practice Note: Admissibility of hearsay evidence—The statutory gateways.

However, if the message is not hearsay it may still be admitted in evidence (subject to relevance) but not for the purposes of proving the truth of its contents; it will be 'original evidence', that is direct evidence from which a fact may