Category Archives: Evidence

Statute of Frauds 1677 | 16 April 1677

ON THIS DAY in 1677, the English Parliament enacted the Statute of Frauds 1677.

This Act required certain dealings with real property, sale of goods, estates, trusts and marriage be reduced to writing and signed in order to avoid fraud or perjury.

The provisions of the Act have since been incorporated into many pieces of legislation around the common law world.

 

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Luxton v Vines [1952] HCA 19 | 4 April 1952

ON THIS DAY in 1952, the High Court of Australia delivered Luxton v Vines [1952] HCA 19; (1952) 85 CLR 352 (4 April 1952).

http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/HCA/1952/19.html

“In questions of this sort, where direct proof is not available, it is enough if the circumstances appearing in evidence give rise to a reasonable and definite inference: they must do more than give rise to conflicting inferences of equal degrees of probability so that the choice between them is mere matter of conjecture: see per Lord Robson, Richard Evans & Co. Ltd. v. Astley (1911) AC 674, at p 687. But if circumstances are proved in which it is reasonable to find a balance of probabilities in favour of the conclusion sought then, though the conclusion may fall short of certainty, it is not to be regarded as a mere conjecture or surmise: cf. per Lord Loreburn (1911) AC, at p 678″. (at p358)”

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McKinney v R [1991] HCA 6 | 22 March 1991

ON THIS DAY IN 1991, the High Court of Australia delivered McKinney v R [1991] HCA 6; (1991) 171 CLR 468 (22 March 1991).

http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/HCA/1991/6.html

A trial judge must warn a jury of the dangers of convicting the accused on the basis of their alleged admissions whilst in custody.

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Jones v Dunkel [1959] HCA 8 | 3 March 1959

ON THIS DAY IN 1959, the High Court delivered Jones v Dunkel [1959] HCA 8; (1959) 101 CLR 298 (3 March 1959).

http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/HCA/1959/8.html

The unexplained failure of a party to use certain evidence may, in some circumstances, result in an inference that the evidence would not have assisted their case.

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Kirk v Industrial Relations Commission; Kirk Group Holdings Pty Ltd v WorkCover Authority of New South Wales (Inspector Childs) [2010] HCA 1 | 3 FEBRUARY 2010

ON THIS DAY IN 2010, the High Court of Australia delivered Kirk v Industrial Relations Commission; Kirk Group Holdings Pty Ltd v WorkCover Authority of New South Wales (Inspector Childs) [2010] HCA 1 (3 February 2010).

http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/HCA/2010/1.html

Kirk was charged for offences under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 1983 (NSW). The statement of offence did not identify the acts or omissions that constituted the alleged offences.

The charges were heard by the NSW Industrial Court. During the hearing the prosecution called Kirk as a witness for the prosecution.

Kirk was convicted and sentenced.

Kirk appealed to the NSW Court of Appeal seeking an order in the nature of certiorari on the grounds that there was a jurisdictional error. Kirk argued that the Industrial Court exceeded its jurisdiction in two ways: (1) the statement of offence did not identify the acts of omissions that constituted the alleged offences, nor the measures available to address the risks, so the defendant was denied an opportunity to properly defend the charges and (2) that under s17(2) of the Evidence Act 1995 (NSW), a defendant is not competent to give evidence for the prosecution and the trial was therefore conducted otherwise than in accordance with the laws of evidence. The NSW Court of Appeal refused to quash the convictions and sentences on the grounds that s179 of the Industrial Relations Act 1996 (NSW) prohibits an appeal against a review, quashing or calling into question a decision of the Industrial Court.

The High Court allowed the appeal, set aside the Court of Appeal’s decision and quashed the convictions and sentences. In overturning the Court of Appeal, High Court held that (1) the a “decision” does not include a decision made by the Industrial Court outside of their jurisdiction and (2) it was beyond the power of the State legislature to limit the power of a State Supreme Court to grant relief to correct jurisdictional errors made by courts and tribunals of limited jurisdiction.

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Anton Piller KG v Manufacturing Processes Ltd [1975] EWCA Civ 12 | 8 December 1975

ON 8 DECEMBER 1975, the England and Wales Court of Appeal delivered Anton Piller KG v Manufacturing Processes Ltd & Ors [1975] EWCA Civ 12 (08 December 1975).

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/1975/12.html

The Court of Appeal held that it had inherent jurisdiction to order defendants in most exceptional circumstances to “permit” the plaintiffs’ lawyers to enter the defendants’ premises to inspect and remove material. Such circumstances are (1) when the plaintiffs have a strong prima facie case of very serious actual or potential damage and (2) clear evidence of the defendants being in the possession of “vital material which they might destroy or dispose of to defeat the ends of justice before an application inter partes may be made”.

The Court of Appeal held that in very exceptional circumstances such an application may be made ex parte (in the absence of the defendants).

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Longman v R [1989] HCA 60 | 6 December 1999

ON 6 DECEMBER 1989, the High Court of Australia delivered Longman v R [1989] HCA 60; (1989) 168 CLR 79 (6 December 1989).

http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/high_ct/168clr79.html

Complaints of unlawfully and indecently dealing with or assaulting three girls under the age of 14 years were made against Longman (the appellant) at a time over 20 years after the alleged offences. At trial, the jury were told to consider the “relative credibility of the complainant and the appellant without either a warning or a mention of the factors relevant to the evaluation of the evidence”.

The High Court held that what the jury was told was not sufficient.

Per Brennan, Dawson and Toohey JJ at [30]:

“The jury should have been told that, as the evidence of the complainant could not be adequately tested after the passage of more than 20 years, it would be dangerous to convict on that evidence alone unless the jury, scrutinizing the evidence with great care, considering the circumstances relevant to its evaluation and paying heed to the warning, were satisfied of its truth and accuracy. To leave a jury without such a full appreciation of the danger was to risk a miscarriage of justice.”

The High Court ordered a retrial because the absence of a warning made the conviction “unsafe and unsatisfactory”.

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Browne v Dunn (1893) 6 R 67 (HL) | 28 November 1893

ON 28 NOVEMBER 1893, the House of Lords delivered Browne v Dunn (1893) 6 R 67 (HL).

A party who cross-examines a witness must, out of fairness, “put it” to the witness any contradiction they suggest arises from their evidence in order to give them an opportunity to explain the contradiction.

Per Lord Herschell at 70-71:

“…it seems to me to be absolutely essential to the proper conduct of a cause, where it is intended to suggest that a witness is not speaking the truth on a particular point, to direct his attention to the fact by some questions put in cross-examination showing that imputation is intended to be made, and not to take his evidence and pass it by as a matter altogether unchallenged and, then, when it is impossible for him to explain…to argue that he is a witness unworthy of credit.”

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Crampton v R [2000] HCA 60 | 23 November 2000

ON 23 NOVEMBER 2000, the High Court of Australia delivered Crampton v R [2000] HCA 60; 206 CLR 161; 176 ALR 369; 75 ALJR 133 (23 November 2000).

http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/HCA/2000/60.html

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Rogers v Whitaker [1992] HCA 58 | 19 November 1992

ON 19 NOVEMBER 1992, the High Court of Australia delivered Rogers v Whitaker [1992] HCA 58; (1992) 175 CLR 479 (19 November 1992).

http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/HCA/1992/58.html

Dr Rogers had performed surgery on Whitaker’s right eye, which was almost blind. The surgery should have restored her sight, but instead became blind in the left eye when she suffered sympathetic opthalmia. Whilst the risk was remote, Dr Rogers was held to be negligent in failing to warn Whitaker of the risk.

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