Evidence in Criminal Trials 2nd Edition



Author: Liz Heffernan

Published: 29-10-2020

Format: Hardback

Edition: 2nd

ISBN: 9781526511454


The law of evidence comprises the rules which govern the presentation of facts and proof in proceedings before a court. It is a subject of enormous importance to both practitioners and students.


The principal objective of Evidence in Criminal Trials, 2nd edn, is to update the analysis of Irish law and policy on criminal evidence. Given its nature, the law of evidence is constantly evolving and, in particular, is actively developed by the courts and occasionally the legislature. In the five years since the first edition was published, judicial decisions have been handed down in each of areas covered in the book. This is particularly true of the broad field of Testimony (chapters 2 to 6) and the area of Pre-Trial Interviews with Suspects (chapter 9).


Aside from updating the text in this general sense, the second edition will examine a number of landmark developments that have occurred over the past four years.


-In DPP v JC [2015] IESC 31, the Supreme Court delivered a groundbreaking decision effectively re-writing the law on unlawfully obtained evidence by relaxing the strict exclusionary rule that had been applied by the courts for the previous fifty years. The revised exclusionary rule has been applied in a number of recent cases.


-In 2017, the Oireachtas substantially amended the legislative regime of special measures for vulnerable witnesses. The Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Act 2017, which transposed the EU Victims' Rights Directive, has extended these measures in principle to crime victims who are at risk of secondary victimisation. It has also enhanced the range of existing measures for children and persons with certain intellectual disabilities who give evidence in trials for violent and/or sexual offences. The combined effect is a substantial amendment of Part 3 of the Criminal Evidence Act 1992.


-Both the Victims of Crime Act and the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017 have introduced important changes relating to the evidence of complainants in trials for sexual offences. This area of trial practice has been the subject of controversy and various proposals for policy reform have been put forward.


-In 2016, the Law Reform Commission published its long-awaited Report on Consolidation and Reform of Aspects of the Law of Evidence. The very length report includes recommendations in the areas of expert evidence and the law on hearsay (two significant chapters within the book). It also examines the law relating to documentary evidence and makes proposals for the consolidation of evidence legislation.


The second edition will contain a new chapter on the subject of European Criminal Evidence. The central focus is on the Mutual Legal Assistance Act 2008 which provides the framework for the taking of evidence located abroad. It also analyses various measures adopted under the auspices of the EU including the EU Directives on the Right of Access to a Lawyer, and on European Investigation Orders (which Ireland has not opted into). The current European Commission proposal for an instrument on European Preservation and Production Orders in relation to electronic evidence is also discussed. Includes references to the relevant case law of the European Court of Human Rights throughout the book.


In addition, new material is added to existing chapters. For example, the discussion of the burdens and standards of proof will be extended (chapter 1) and the analysis of privilege (chapter 12). Similarly, the law on the admissibility of mixed statements will be included in the account of pre-trial interviews with suspects (chapter 9). The analysis of DNA evidence will be revised (chapter 10) by condensing some of the older material on point and including a review of the recent Supreme Court decision in DPP v Wilson [2017] IESC 54.


Table Of Contents


1 Introduction

2 Testimony

3 The Accused

4 Accomplices

5 Children and Vulnerable Adults

6 Crime Victims

7 Complainants of Sexual Offences

8 Hearsay

9 Hostile Witnesses and Previous Witness Statements

10 Visual Identification Evidence

11 Expert Evidence

12 Physical, Scientific and Technological Evidence

13 Unlawfully Obtained Evidence

14 Pre-Trial Interviews with Suspects

15 Disclosing Evidence

16 Privilege and Informers




“...reflects a relentless raising of the bar in terms of scholarship in this field. Subsequent texts may well exceed Heffernan and Ní Raifeartaigh's book in terms of length, but they will find it difficult to match the freshness, ambition, lucidity and erudition of this work.” –  Thomas Mohr, Associate Professor of Law, University College Dublin, Irish Jurist

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