What You Should Do When Asked to Give Evidence

All extracts are taken from the “Safer Doors” book. Published by Geddes and Grossett. Copyright laws apply.

Whenever door supervisors arrest someone for committing an offence, or witness something that they are later asked to provide a statement about, they may ultimately have to give evidence in subsequent court proceedings about what they have done or seen.

The rules of evidence are very strict, so it is important that door supervisors have a clear understanding of them, and should at least know what is acceptable to a court and what is not.

Evidence, in its simplest form, means information that may be presented to a court to decide on the probability of some point in question, and particularly as to how it may determine a person’s guilt or innocence.

All court proceedings are governed by the laws of evidence that determine what facts may be proved in order to decide whether the accused is guilty or not, and how and by whom those facts may be proved.

The facts in most criminal cases that need to be proved or disproved by evidence are the identity of the accused, whether or not he committed the offence for which he is on trial, and any necessary knowledge or intent connected to the crime.

Evidence is said to be relevant to court proceedings if its existence tends to show the truth, or otherwise, of a fact which is in issue in those proceedings. All facts admissible in evidence must be relevant to the proceedings, but not all relevant facts may be admissible in evidence due to legal rules.

A fact is admissible when the law allows it to be proved in evidence

Direct evidence means that of something seen, heard or experienced by the person who relates it. It normally connects the accused directly with the offence in some way.

For example, if a door supervisor says how he saw a man pick up a brick from the street and then throw it at a shop window causing it to smash, then if he relates this to a court it would be direct evidence against the accused.

Circumstantial evidence can be described as presumptive or indirect evidence. Although it does not prove the offence itself it proves other facts which, when added to other evidence, supports an inference or presumption of guilt.

For example, if the supervisor above had seen the man pick up the brick from the street and run out of sight, but then had seconds later heard the sound of glass smashing and then had seen the man reappear without the brick, then this could be given as circumstantial evidence to support any direct evidence from other witnesses who may have seen the man actually smash the window. It is a very common form of evidence from which the facts to be proved are rendered more or less probable.

Evidence is hearsay if it relates to something that a witness has heard another person (not the accused) say about the offence, but that he does not know to be true for himself. That evidence can only be given by the person who experienced it for himself.

Hearsay evidence is very rarely admissible during court proceedings, because it is not the best evidence, it is second-hand. Juries also find it difficult to evaluate hearsay evidence properly, and because it is not given on oath as is direct evidence, its truthfulness and accuracy cannot be tested by cross-examination.

Oral evidence is that given by a witness when he verbally relates to the court what happened. The witness may recount from his first-hand knowledge what he said, saw, heard, tasted, felt, smelt and did at any relevant time.

Documentary evidence includes any drawn, written or printed document in any form which communicates visual or written messages from one person to another. A door supervisor’s notebook or the incident-log may be tendered as evidence, or a stolen cheque which has been passed over the bar as payment. The original document itself is primary evidence, and any copy of it is secondary evidence. Such evidence can be presented to the court by a witness, who can explain its relevance orally.

Real evidence can be anything else which is produced as an exhibit to the court by any person who has first-hand knowledge of its existence and relevance to the matter in question. Items such as weapons or drugs found by door supervisors can be real evidence, as can any video recording of an incident filmed by CCTV.

Although the evidence of a single witness, normally the victim, can be sufficient to prove an offence against the accused, there is obviously the risk that an innocent person may be convicted unless the evidence of certain witnesses is confirmed and supported by other evidence. Corroboration is evidence in its own right which backs up other evidence that the accused is guilty of the offence.

Before evidence can be accepted by a court as corroboration it must be admissible in itself, so it must be relevant to the case and acceptable to the court.

In persuance of the defendant’s right to a fair trial, evidence that he has a criminal record, is of bad character, or has a tendancy to commit the type of offence for which he stands accused is not permitted, and is deemed inadmissible. Any previous criminal convictions the defendant may have will not be shown to the court until such times as he has been found guilty of the offence for which he is accused. Only in rare, exceptional circumstances is this rule broken.

Witnesses should restrict their evidence to the facts and matters in question. They should not give opinion in their evidence unless specifically requested to do so by the court. Persons with recognised specialist knowledge of a particular subject may be called upon to give their opinion about a set of facts or circumstances, but their evidence is then very much open to challenge.

Under the Perjury Act of 1911, it is a serious arrestable offence for any person who is lawfully sworn as a witness in judicial proceedings to wilfully make any statement material to that proceeding which he knows to be false or does not believe to be true. At crown court anyone found guilty of such an offence may be sentenced to a term of imprisonment for up to 7 years.

Anyone who aids, abets, counsels, procures or bribes someone else to commit such an offence shall be liable to be proceeded against as if he were a principle offender.

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