Hearsay Evidence

Hearsay evidence is an out of court statement which is repeated in court for the purpose of proving the truth of a fact or facts asserted in the earlier out of court statement. As a general rule, hearsay evidence is inadmissible unless it falls within the accepted common law or statutory exceptions.

Common law exceptions include statements admitted as part of the spontaneous utterance rule (res gestae) and confession evidence. S114 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 states that hearsay evidence can be permitted in the following situations.

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  • Unavailable witness providing that the witness is identified s116 CJA 2006- the reasons for this could be that the witness is dead, ill , cannot be found or lives outside the UK and it would not be reasonably practicable for them to attend.
  • Business documents s117 CJA 2003- where the document was created or received in the course of business, trade or profession. The person who supplied the information in the document must be deemed to have a good personal knowledge of the matters dealt with in the statement
  • It comes with one of the preserved common law exceptions S114 (b) CJA 2003- these include the res gestae rule which means transaction or series of events. The spontaneous utterance rule comes under the res gestae principle and can be found in the case of R v Andrews 1987 AC 281. S 118 (4) (a) CJA 2003  preserves  the spontaneous utterance rule by allowing an out of court statement to be adduced in evidence where the person who made it was ‘so overpowered by the  events that the possibility of concoction or distortion can be disregarded'
  • The parties agree to the hearsay being admitted s114 91 (c)
  • The court decides that it is in the interests of justice for the hearsay to be admitted
  • public documents- the contents of which are recognised as being reliable

Interests of justice

Where the hearsay evidence does not fall within any one of the specified exceptions it can still be admitted on the basis of its probative value, the credibility of the maker and its overall importance. S112 CJA 2003.