6.2 Rules of Evidence

“Evidence is the legal means by which any fact, or point in issue may be proved or disproved, in a manner complying with the legal rules governing the subject”

In other words, the PACE ACT 1984 gives us rules regarding evidence to prove or disprove offences.

Without complicating things too much, here are some examples that relate to Environmental Enforcement.

Hearsay – this is what someone heard another person say about an incident. It is generally inadmissible in court. You would not enforce if a member of the public told you that someone else had told them, that someone had littered.

Primary Evidence – This is what a person saw, said or did. Your witness statement and video footage is primary evidence. Often offenders will challenge your evidence on the street, stating that without video footage it is a matter of your word against theirs. This is true, to some extent, remind them that you will be submitting an eye witness statement as a professional experienced in law, enforcement and surveillance. Also that the street is not where evidence is reviewed or guilt decided, that will be a matter for the courts.

Physical evidence - Photography has meant that in the type of cases we deal with, the requirement to retain physical evidence has become minimal. Although photographs are secondary evidence, the items themselves being primary, in low key offences, photography will suffice. What is important is the at your images collected, firmly establish beyond doubt, the articles concerned, there location and the points to prove the offence.

Cautioning – When we see someone litter, we consider the matter absolute. There is no need to question the offender, beyond obtaining personal details. As such a caution is not required. However, when dealing with other offences, we may need to question or interview people. At the point you suspect the person you are speaking to has committed an offence, you should caution them.

“You do not have to say anything unless you wish to do so, but it may harm your defence if you do not say anything that you later come to rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence”

It may be, that you caution someone before asking them anything, as you suspect they may have committed an offence or you may be speaking to them as a potential witness who reveals something that establishes they too have committed an offence. Either way it’s important to remember any admissions made prior to being cautioned may be inadmissible in court. Best practice if you are in any doubt, is to caution immediately.

From the legal case of the Crown v Turnbull in 1977 legal rules have been established that relate to the reliability of eyewitness evidence.

The Turnbull Rules requires eyewitness evidence to be presented and considered against the following factors:

A - Amount of time the offender was witnessed for.

D - Distance between the eyewitness and the offender?

V - Visibility and illumination level at the time?

O - Observation line to offender i.e. was the view clear or part obscured?

K - Known offender or not known to the eyewitness?

A - Any circumstances that would make the event/offence memorable?

T- Time elapsed since the event/offence (and a witness statement being completed)?

E - Errors made in the identification of the offenders i.e. is there any doubt?