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What evidence is needed to charge a person with an offence?

View profile for Martin Pizzey
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Can a criminal conviction whilst under the age of 18 affect future job prospects or higher education?

We receive a number of calls from clients who ask if they can be charged with an offence when the alleged victim has not provided a statement or where there isn’t any CCTV/forensic evidence.

The first point to remember is that we are all subject to the law. Whenever one individual’s behaviour towards another amounts to an offence being committed, the perpetrator of that offence can find themselves in court. This can even be the case when no complaint is made by the alleged victim. Issues for consideration by the prosecution would concentrate on the available evidence and whether it is in the public interest in prosecuting.

In many domestic violence cases, the alleged victim may for a variety of reasons be reluctant to provide a statement of complaint to a police officer. This does not stop, as experience has shown, the police investigating the potential offence.

What is evidence?

Evidence is anything that can be used to support or defend a charge made against a person, helping a jury or Magistrates to decide as to whether they think the defendant is innocent or guilty. Evidence can come in a wide range of forms.

What evidence do the police need to charge you?

The evidence which the police may use against you can come from a variety of different sources, with some holding more weight than others. If the incident in question was witnessed by another person present at the scene or captured on CCTV systems, it is commonly used as a substantial piece of evidence in the case. Sometimes it may be the case the alleged victim is prepared to tell the police what happened but will refuse to make and sign a formal statement.

Current police practice is to video record conversations with a victim at the first point of contact – likely to be following an attendance when an emergency call has been received by them. The recording is on a small CCTV device known as a body worn camera that is becoming standard issue for police officers.

Prosecutors are becoming more prepared to pursue cases at court when the only account as to what is alleged is captured in such a video recording. Rules relating to the admissibility of evidence permit such “evidence” being allowed at a trial subject to appropriate tests and safeguards to ensure fairness to all concerned. Of course, the video evidence may only tell part of the full story. In some cases the accounts recorded from the alleged victim may be falsely made. Whatever the background – the old thinking that “no witness means no case” is no longer correct.

What makes evidence admissible in court?

In order for evidence to be admissible in court, on the side of either the prosecution or defence, then it must adhere to certain rules as mentioned before. This is a complex area of law. What might be admissible in one case might be deemed inadmissible in the next depending on the circumstances.  It is important that you and any legal assistance you instruct are aware of what can be submitted as evidence, so that you know what may be used against you and what can be used towards your defence.

Admissible evidence must establish a fact in issue would be relevant and ideally will also be impartial, logical, consistent,  and have credibility.

Anyone facing allegations where this is applicable should seek legal advice at the earliest opportunity in order for an experienced solicitor to consider the evidence. Should you require assistance please contact our team on 01616 966 229.