In any court case, whether criminal or civil, evidence may be introduced by both sides. Evidence is something that tends to prove or disprove a particular fact - it makes the existence or non-existence of that fact more likely.

The law of evidence lays down rules to decide what items of evidence may be introduced to prove facts in a trial. An item of evidence is described as "inadmissible" if the law of evidence does not allow it to be introduced at a trial. Conversely, an item of evidence is described as "admissible" if the law of evidence allows it to be introduced to prove or disprove a particular fact.

In this section, you will find information on a wide range of types of evidence and you will find out when those types of evidence may be admissible or inadmissible in a case. We will consider the oral testimony of witnesses, real evidence and documentary evidence. We will also consider hearsay evidence, circumstantial evidence, unlawfully obtained evidence, identification evidence and confessions.

Some evidence may be relevant and it may be admissible but it may be privileged evidence so it cannot be introduced. Other evidence may be admissible but may be suspect evidence so that certain safeguards have to be put in place to protect the accused.

The rules on what may be admitted in evidence in a criminal trial are complex. The Criminal Justice Act 2006 provides for the admissibility of statements which were made by witnesses and which the witness subsequently refuses to stand over. The court now has the power to decide whether or not to admit such a statement and the Act sets out guidelines for the court in making the decision.

Further information

For more detailed information you should seek legal advice.

Page edited: 6 January 2014