Hearsay and the Exceptions in Civil and Criminal Cases

Topics: Hearsay, Hearsay in United States law, Evidence law Pages: 5 (1960 words) Published: March 15, 2012
The general rule at common law is that hearsay evidence is inadmissible unless it falls within a common law or statutory exception. The rationale behind this exclusionary rule is that out of court statements made by others cannot be tested in court by cross-examination to see if they are true or not Hearsay evidence is renowned as one of the most difficult areas as of law to pigeon hole and define. It has been widely interpreted and reinterpreted by the courts. A useful starting point is the definition found in the Civil Evidence Act 1995 section 1, which, bearing in mind that it only applies to hearsay in civil cases, is one of the nearest to a clear definition of hearsay. The definition itself is based on common law cases, which form the basis of how hearsay evidence is treated in criminal cases; Under section 1(2) of the Act - Hearsay evidence can be thought of as "any statement made otherwise than by a person while giving oral evidence in the proceedings, which is tendered as evidence of the matters stated." Examples of hearsay statements in documents can be found in witness statements read out by solicitors in court; public analyst certificates, and records from businesses, such as accounts. For the purposes of the hearsay rules, the definition of a statement applies equally to those made orally, to those made by a gesture and those made in documents. Statements that have been held to be hearsay include documents from a factory, assembly line (Myers v DPP); somebody nodding in agreement to a question; and phone calls to a drug dealer's house asking for the usual supply of drugs. The cases have shown that statements could be statements that on the face of it are not repeated to prove the facts stated, but on reflection imply that the facts suggested are true. However, even the cases dealing with these so-called "implied assertions" are unclear and often conflicting. There are several clear common law exceptions to the hearsay rule. As stated the hearsay rule will not apply to the statement where the party seeking to rely on the statement other for than the proving of the truth of the matters contained within it. Some examples of statements held not to be hearsay include those repeated by others to show only that a statement in question was actually made, for example where a person had been threatened by terrorists, the statement was repeated not to show that the threat was true or not, but simply that it was made, and therefore was capable of being believed by the accused and thus capable of amounting to duress - Subramanium v PP. Another exception is statements made by mechanical devices, for example where there has been no human intervention or input, such as with automatic calculations and printouts or itemised phone bills such as in R v Spilby (1990). Furthermore, statements made in public documents, for example in documents concerning a public matter and made by a public officer under a duty to inquire into, and record results of the inquiry, such as a Register of Births and Deaths, or an Office of Fair Trading return are not excluded under the hearsay rule. The hearsay rule does not apply to photographs, video recordings, sketches, photo fits, and works of reference such as maps, and historical texts, A statements made by a deceased person as to the cause of his death is admissible as evidence of the cause of death, if as in R v Perry (1909), as long as the person is under a settled hopeless expectation of death. Res Gestae statements, those that made in the heat of the moment, where it is assumed the person making them has not had time to concoct an untrue statement are admissible. These will generally be statements that so to show physical sensation or the maker's state of mind or if closely associated with a dramatic event. Thus if a person whilst away form home writes a letter explaining why he is staying away from home the letter would be admissible as to the fact that he had stayed away from home, as...
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