Suspect evidence

Information

Certain types of evidence can be admitted in court but are considered suspect. This means that they often turn out to be untrue or incorrect.

Safeguards have been put in place to protect people from being convicted based on suspect evidence. In certain situations there must be corroborative evidence in addition to the suspect evidence in order to convict someone. Corroborative evidence is additional evidence which connects the accused to the crime.

Corroboration warnings are also used to protect people from being convicted based on suspect evidence. A corroboration warning is a warning the judge gives the jury, which highlights that it is dangerous to convict someone based on suspect evidence without any corroborative evidence.

Rules

Mandatory corroboration

You must have corroboration evidence to convict someone of the following offences:

  • Committing treason or helping someone who has committed treason
  • Committing an offence under the Road Traffic Acts which requires proof of the speed you were driving (unless this evidence was established by a watch, electronic or photographic apparatus)
  • Committing perjury

A judge must direct the jury to acquit the accused if there is no corroborative evidence in these cases.

Corroboration warning

If a judge needs to give a jury a corroboration warning about a case they will do this at the end of the trial. The corroboration warning points out to the jury that it is dangerous to convict the accused based on suspect evidence without any corroborative evidence. However, if the jury is satisfied beyond all reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty, they can convict without corroborative evidence.

Corroborative evidence

Corroborative evidence is additional evidence. It is evidence in a case which:

  • Implicates the accused in the crime. It must show that the accused is guilty of the offence.
  • Is admissible and credible
  • Is independent, as in, it comes from a source other than the witness whose evidence needs to be corroborated

Accomplice evidence

An accomplice is a person who was also involved in an alleged crime. If an accomplice is giving evidence against the accused, the court will treat this as suspect evidence. This is because an accomplice may have a lot to gain by lying to pin the blame on the accused.

To protect the accused from being unfairly convicted based on accomplice evidence, the judge will sum up the case at the end of the trial and must give the jury a corroboration warning.

Confession evidence

A confession is a voluntary statement made by the accused implicating themselves in the alleged offence. Confession evidence is considered suspect evidence and the judge must give the jury a corroboration warning in these cases.

Evidence given by the alleged victim of a sexual offence

Traditionally, the evidence of an alleged victim of a sexual offence was treated as suspect and the judge had to give the jury a corroboration warning.

However, since 1990, the corroboration warning is no longer automatic in these cases and the judge can decide if the warning is necessary in each particular case.

Children's evidence

Traditionally, children's evidence was treated as suspect and the judge had to give the jury a corroboration warning.

However, since 1992, the corroboration warning is no longer automatic in these cases and the judge can decide if the warning is necessary in each case.

Further information

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

Page edited: 25 April 2019