Turnball Guidelines and Opinion Evidence

Corroborative evidence is independent evidence which supports or confirms other evidence in the case. Where evidence is unreliable in some way corroboration is needed. Corroboration evidence can be sought either as a matter of law or discretion. Some statutes require prosecution evidence to be corroborated as a matter of law before the defendant can be convicted of the offence including perjury s13 Perjury Act 1911 and treason s1 Treason Act 1795.  In the past, In relation to corroboration and judicial discretion, the evidence of children and victim in sexual offences were considered less reliable than other witnesses. The current position has moved on from this and is laid down in the case of R v Makanjualo (1995) 3 All Er 730:

  • A corroboration warning is not mandatory because the witness is a child or victim of sexual violence
  • Whether a warning is required or not should be left to the judge's discretion
  • If a judge does give a warning in relation to a witness he will do so as part of his review of the evidence

Corroborative evidence might come from another witness's oral testimony, documentary or real evidence, forensic evidence or the defendant's lies or admissions.

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Turnball Guidelines

These apply where the defendant disputes the prosecution eye witness identification evidence. The judge therefore has to give the jury the appropriate directions as formulated in R v Turnball 1977 QB 224. These guidelines require the court to proceed with caution in relation to identification evidence so as to avoid a miscarriage of justice. The guidelines therefore stress that the jury or magistrates should consider the circumstances surrounding the description of the defendant including the length of time the witness allegedly observed the defendant, the light or distance in which the identification occurred and whether there was something unusual about the defendant giving the victim a special reason to recognise him. If the warning is not given the defendant would have a right of appeal on the basis that the conviction is unsafe.

Opinion Evidence

This evidence would normally be inadmissible in a criminal trial unless the witness is relaying fact that they perceived or an expert is providing evidence that goes beyond the ordinary competence of the court including forensic evidence, facial mapping or accident investigation. Part 24 of the Criminal Procedure rules requires pre trial disclosure of expert evidence for both sides as the expert's role is to provide impartial information to assist the court reach a decision in the case.