LLB Programmes


Professor Ian Dennis

Course Outline

  • Introduction: evidence and adjudication; facts and fact-finding; terminology and concepts
  • Forms of evidence: classification of forms; views and reconstructions; documents and copies; tapes, photographs and films; computer output
  • Access to evidence: the investigation of offences interrogation, the right to silence and the law of confessions; identification evidence; exclusionary discretion in criminal cases
  • Access to evidence: privilege and immunity privilege against self-incrimination; legal professional privilege; public interest immunity and disclosure of evidence
  • Principles of proof: burden and standard of proof; judicial notice; presumptions; formal admissions
  • Hearsay: the rule against hearsay and its rationale; relevance, hearsay and res gestae; common law exceptions; statutory reform in civil and criminal cases
  • Witnesses: competence and compellability; examination and cross-examination; problems of credibility and corroboration
  • Character evidence: the “similar fact” rule; evidence of good character; cross-examination of the accused and the co-accused
  • Evidence of opinion and evidence in prior proceedings: the opinion rule; expert evidence; prior proceedings

    N.B. Not all these topics will necessarily be taught in detail. There will be a selection of topics for in-depth study.

The recommended books for the course are Dennis, The Law of Evidence (1999); Choo, Evidence: Text and Materials (1998); Butterworths Student Statutes: Evidence and Tapper Blackstones Statutes on Evidence. Other standard texts are Cross latest editions on Evidence (9th ed 1999) and Keane, The Modern Law of Evidence (5th ed 2000).

There are a number of larger general works, books of essays and specialist monographs which will be referred to from time to time. References will be given in the normal way to primary sources, official reports and periodical literature.

General Comment
Course tuition consists of a weekly 2 hour seminar and a fortnightly tutorial. Three pieces of written work will be set in accordance with Faculty policy.

Evidence was for many years a subject largely governed by long established common law but in recent years much statutory reform has taken place, particularly in criminal cases. Notorious cases of miscarriage of justice (the Guildford Four, the Birmingham Six, etc) focused attention on the need for further overhaul, and led to the important Report of the Royal Commission on Criminal Justice (1993). The incorporation into English law of the European Convention on Human Rights raises many issues about the content of the right to a fair trial. The current law and possible alternatives raise problems, both theoretical and practical, as interesting and challenging as any to be found in the law.

The aims of the course are that students should acquire a mastery of the present law, an informed understanding of its theoretical base and practical context, and an appreciation of the arguments of principle and policy relating to reform of the law. The bulk of the material will be concerned with criminal cases where the greatest interest and difficulties arise.

A detailed study of the law of evidence is essential for almost any lawyer. No one concerned with substantive rights, duties and liabilities can afford to neglect the adjectival law of procedure and evidence which provides the mechanisms for their enforcement. Evidence is taught on the vocational courses for both barristers and solicitors where the approach, for good reason, tends to be fast-moving and strongly practical. The course at UCL offers an opportunity for penetrating in-depth study from an academic perspective which complements rather than duplicates the vocational courses.

Assessment of the course is by a 3 hour written examination in the summer.

National Admissions Test for Law (LNAT)
All applicants are required to take the LNAT as soon as possible and no later than 20 January (registration deadline 15 January).

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