Legal Evidence


Nineteenth Annual Darwin College Lecture Series 2004

Lecture 3   :   30 January 2004

Cherie Booth




This lecture analyses the nature of evidence in British law, and in particular considers ways in which the judicial search for truth is necessarily Evidence in law is shaped by the need to disprove innocence, and as a result standards of evidence in law have to vary according to the nature of the There is a constant tension between the need to protect the public and the need to protect the individual. For instance, a balance must be struck between the right of a victim of violence to protection, and the right of the accused to the presumption of innocence until demonstrated In certain cases courts must be sensitive to the different requirements of scientific proof and legal

This can mean that a scientist's reliance on a stringent scientific standard of proof to demonstrate or predict phenomena may be sacrificed to the court's need to focus on the guilt or innocence of the accused. Some of the most difficult questions relate to war crimes trials, as the systematic destruction of evidence can often be a feature of officially sanctioned Here courts are forced to consider their ability to identify and convict the truly guilty parties, and irrespective of that ability, their need to memorialise the fact of the atrocity itself. The notion of evidence in law must be subtle if it is indeed to protect the weak.


Cherie Booth QC is a barrister who specialises in Public, Employment and European Community Law at Matrix Chambers, Grays Inn, London. She is a Recorder and Bencher of s Inn, an Honorary Bencher s Inn, Dublin, Chancellor and Honorary Fellow of Liverpool John Moores University (JMU) and an Honorary Fellow of the LSE and the Open (DUniv. Open 1999), LLD (Hons.) University of Liverpool (2003) Hon.DLitt Umist (2003). Cherie is also President of Barnados, Trustee of Refuge, and Vice President of Kids Club Network. 

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