Definition of evidence
< Middle English < Old French < Latin evidentia ("clearness, in Late Latin a proof") < evidens ("clear, evident"); see evident.
- Facts or observations presented in support of an assertion.
- (law) Anything admitted by a court to prove or disprove alleged matters of fact in a trial.
to evidence (third-person singular simple present evidences, present participle evidencing, simple past and past participle evidenced)
- (transitive) To provide evidence for, or suggest the truth of.
She was furious, as evidenced by her slamming the door.
The law of evidence governs the use of testimony (e.g., oral or written statements, such as an affidavit) and exhibits (e.g., physical objects) or other documentary material which is admissible (i.e., allowed to be considered by the trier of fact, such as jury) in a judicial or administrative proceeding (e.g., a court of law).
In every jurisdiction based on the English common law tradition, evidence must conform to a number of rules and restrictions to be admissible. Evidence must be relevant - that is, it must be directed at proving or disproving a legal element.
However, the relevance of evidence is ordinarily a necessary condition but not a sufficient condition for the admissibility of evidence. For example, relevant evidence may be excluded if it is unfairly prejudicial, confusing, or cumulative. Furthermore, a variety of social policies operate to exclude relevant evidence. Thus, there are limitations on the use of evidence of liability insurance, subsequent remedial measures, settlement offers, and plea negotiations, mainly because it is thought that the use of such evidence discourages parties from carrying insurance, fixing hazardous conditions, offering to settle, and pleading guilty to crimes, respectively.
Exclusion of evidence
Under English and Welsh law, evidence that would otherwise be admissible at trial may be excluded at the discretion of the trial judge if it would be unfair to the defendant to admit it.
Evidence of a confession may be excluded because it was obtained by oppression or because the confession was made in consequence of anything said or done to the defendant that would be likely to make the confession unreliable. In these circumstances, it would be open to the trial judge to exclude the evidence of the confession under Section 78(1) of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE), or under Section 73 PACE, or under common law, although in practice the confession would be excluded under section 76 PACE.
Other admissible evidence may be excluded, at the discretion of the trial judge under 78 PACE, or at common law, if the judge can be persuaded that having regard to all the circumstances including how the evidence was obtained "admission of the evidence would have such an adverse effect on the fairness of the proceedings that the court ought not to admit it."
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