Evidence - overview

What is evidence?

In criminal and civil cases, the court can only decide on the issue before it based on the evidence given in the case. Evidence can be introduced by both sides in a case and is something that proves or disproves a particular fact - it makes the existence or non-existence of that fact more likely.

The law of evidence sets out rules about what evidence can 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 and "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 about different types of evidence and when those types of evidence are admissible or inadmissible in a case. There is information on real evidence, documentary evidence, hearsay evidence, circumstantial evidence, evidence that has been collected unlawfully, identification evidence and DNA evidence.

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

There is also information in this section about crime scenes and how they are preserved and investigated.

The rules about what can be admitted as 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 can decide whether or not to admit these statements and the Act sets out guidelines for the court when making this decision.

Further information

You should get legal advice for more detailed information on this.

Page edited: 25 January 2023