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What constitutes evidence 'beyond reasonable doubt' ?


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Hi all,

 

Is there any truth in the rumour (English law) that a court won't convict on the evidence of a sole witness ?

 

Also, is there any truth in the rumour that witnesses must be independent - i.e. ruling out 3 close members of a family effectively being 3 witnesses rather than 1 ?

 

Mike.

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No to both.

 

What is true that in each case the magistrate or jury has to decide what weight to give to witness evidence. All other things being equal the more witnesses there are the more weight witness evidence is likely to have - if they say similar things anyway. Similarly if witnesses might have colluded and aren't independent of each other this can also affect what weight is given to the evidence, or whether the jury believes them at all.

 

There are no rules about this, each case will depend on its specific circumstances.

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You also have to consider the 'hearsay' rules. Did the witnesses see what happened or did they hear it from a 3rd party? Things like this are important.

 

Sadly there too are rules as to what 'hearsay' is and when it can be relied upon.

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Sadly there too are rules as to what 'hearsay' is and when it can be relied upon.

 

Not sure why it's sad that there are rules about hearsay evidence - surely it's a sensible thing to have rules about? - but the detailed rules are on Crown Prosecution website here:

 

http://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/h_to_k/hearsay/

 

There are more user friendly summaries on several law firm websites if you search for 'hearsay evidence'.

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