Admissibility of certain witness statements in a criminal trial

Introduction

When you make a witness statement to the Gardaí in relation to a crime, the purpose of your statement is to give the Gardaí a written account of what you witnessed. If a suspect is brought before the court, the prosecution will rely on witnesses who made statements to give a personal account to the court of what they witnessed.

Sometimes, however, due to intimidation and threats, a person who has made a witness statement to the Gardaí may refuse to give evidence in court. Soetimes the person may provide the court with a different account of events to that which he/she has given in the statement. The law in this situation is provided for under the Criminal Justice Act 2006 (pdf).

Rules

Section 16 of the 2006 Act allows for your statement to be admitted as evidence in a criminal trial in the following circumstances:

  • If you refuse to give evidence
  • If you deny making the statement
  • If you give evidence in court which is inconsistent with your statement

The statement may be admitted as evidence if you confirm, (or it is proven) that you made the statement and the court is satisfied that the statement was made voluntarily and it is reliable. The court must also be satisfied that your statement was made on oath or affirmation, or contains a statutory declaration by you to the effect that your statement is true.

Will I have to explain why I am not giving evidence?

If the prosecution applies to the court to have your statement admitted in evidence, the court will seek an explanation from you as to why you are refusing to give evidence or why you are giving evidence which is inconsistent with your statement. In a situation where you deny having made the statement, the court will require evidence from you in relation to your denial.

Can the court refuse to admit my statement in evidence?

Yes. If the court is of the opinion that accepting your statement in evidence would be unfair to the accused (or to any of the accused if there is more than one) or that in the interest of justice it ought not to be admitted, then the court can refuse to admit your statement. The court has a wide discretion as to whether or not to accept your statement in evidence.

Further information

For more detailed information you should seek legal advice.

Page edited: 20 December 2013