Law of Evidence - Essay Example

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Question 1: Admissibility of Confessions under PACE 1984 Previously, confession statements were admitted into evidence as an exception to the rule against hearsay as proof of the truth of “the matters admitted.”1 Although confession statements remain exceptions to the rule against hearsay, the admissibility of confessions is now regulated by the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE)…
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Download file to see previous pages in circumstances that render them unreliable. The obvious test is whether or not the statement was made voluntarily or not as evidence by the Section 76(2) of PACE. There are other safeguards against the admission of a confession that may have been improperly obtained and thus rendering them unreliable. Section 78 of PACE provides that a confession may be excluded if admitting the confession would render the proceedings unfair.4 Section 82(3) of PACE incorporates the common law principle of judicial discretion and permits the exclusion of a confession statement if its prejudicial effect would exceed it probative value.5 The main purposes of the safeguards against admitting confession statements was articulated by Lord Griffiths in Lam Chi-Ming v R as follows: Their Lordships are of the view that the more recent English cases established that the rejection of an improperly obtained confession is not dependent only upon possible unreliability but also upon the principle that a man cannot be compelled to incriminate himself and upon the importance that attaches in a civilized society to proper behaviour by police towards those in their custody.6 Thus the protections contemplated by PACE relative to the admissibility of confessions are three fold: to safeguard against the admissibility of unreliable confessions; to protect the accused person’s right against self-incrimination; and to protect the accused person from police impropriety. Although a judge following a voire dire (a trial outside the presence of the jury) may rule that the confession was obtained fairly and is thus admissible, the circumstances in which the confession was obtained may nevertheless be laid out before the jury. For instance, in Musthtaq the House of Lords ruled that a judge must instruct the jury that if, despite the judge’s admission of the confession, if they find that the confession was obtained oppressively or improperly, they are required to disregard it.7 It was also held in Wizzard v R. that the judge must instruct the jury to disregard a confession admitted into evidence if: There is a possibility that the jury may conclude that a statement was made by the defendant, that statement was true, but, the statement was, or may have been, induced by oppression.8 Thus the courts have expounded upon the protections articulated in PACE relative to the admissibility of a confession statement. The main purpose is to safeguard against an unfair and unjust outcome by protecting the accused’s right against self-incrimination, protect the accused against police impropriety and to safeguard against the admission of an unreliable statement. Building on the protection purposes implicit in PACE, Lord Steyn stated in Mitchell v R that the jury ought not to know that the admissibility of a confession statement was determined in a voire dire. As Lord Steyn noted: There is no logical reason why the jury should know about the decision of the judge. It is irrelevant ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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