Safeguards against hearsay in criminal proceedings
Safeguards against hearsay in criminal proceedings

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

  • Safeguards against hearsay in criminal proceedings
  • Exclusion under the Criminal Justice Act 2003
  • General discretion to exclude
  • Power to exclude documentary hearsay
  • Power to stop a case under the CJA 2003 where hearsay evidence is unconvincing
  • Exclusion of hearsay evidence under PACE 1984, s 78
  • Challenging the credibility of the maker of the statement

Exclusion under the Criminal Justice Act 2003

Hearsay evidence has long been recognised as potentially unreliable because of the dangers of concoction and the difficulty of testing or contradicting it when the witness is not in court to give evidence.

The Criminal Justice Act 2003 (CJA 2003) allows for the admission of hearsay evidence if one or more of the statutory grounds of admissibility are satisfied.

See Practice Note: Admissibility of hearsay evidence. The CJA 2003 also provides a series of safeguards designed to ensure that the admission of hearsay will not affect the fairness of the trial.

General discretion to exclude

Under CJA 2003 the courts have a discretion to exclude hearsay evidence where the court is satisfied that the case for excluding the evidence substantially outweighs the case for admitting it.

The statutory discretion to exclude applies to all hearsay evidence, (including hearsay admitted under the common law exceptions preserved under the CJA 2003 or other statutory exceptions) whether tendered by the prosecution or the defence.

See Practice Notes: Admissibility of hearsay—preserved common law exceptions and The statutory exceptions to the rule against hearsay in criminal proceedings.

In R v C and K the Court of Appeal stated that the court's power to exclude hearsay under the CJA 2003 was discretionary and in addition to the general exclusionary power of the court under the Police and Criminal Evidence

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