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The course aims to provide a sound academic grounding in key principles of the law of evidence. It will examine the key topics of relevance, reliability, probative value, illegitimate prejudice, the influence of human rights, burden of proof, rules of inadmissibility (including hearsay, veracity and propensity and privilege), and trial procedure. In focusing on these key aspects of the law of evidence this course will adopt a strong principle based approach in which the theoretical underpinnings of the development of the law will be examined and discussed.
The primary function of the law of evidence is to govern how information is admitted or excluded as evidence in the courts and, in some cases, other tribunals. A secondary function is how to deal with evidence once it is admitted. Most of the New Zealand laws and regulations relating to ‘evidence’ are covered by the Evidence Act 2006, and the Evidence Regulations 2007. However, some related topics are not covered by the Evidence Act 2006, such as the functions of the judge and jury, the burden of proof and degrees of proof, appeal rights, as well as a number of practical trial conventions and practices.There is a perception that the law of evidence is only relevant to trial practitioners and judges. This view is erroneous, since every single personal or business transaction has the potential for conflict. An awareness of the information needed to resolve disputes, and the rules to make this information admissible and persuasive in court, should be understood by all lawyers, and indeed also business people and private individuals.This course includes material that may be, for some people, upsetting for a variety of reasons. Criminal law, both substance and procedure, exists because people harm each other in a variety ways, some of which may have similarities to our own life-experiences. There is a reasonable likelihood that the content of some of the cases and topics discussed will be confronting or offensive to our own beliefs and attitudes. Some cases deal with violence, non-consensual or consensual sexual activity. Class discussion may also encompass discriminatory attitudes or actions, such as sexism or racism and homophobia. Where appropriate, the lecturer will make reasonable effort to alert the class when they will be teaching difficult material, particularly of a sexual nature. As there are rules of evidence that apply specifically to sexual offences, it is not possible to avoid those examples, but you will not usually be required to read cases with graphic details of sexual activity. In particular, the assessments will not involve detailed fact scenarios of this nature.
On completion of the course, students will be expected to have attained the following learning outcomes: An understanding of core concepts of evidence: The concept of ‘evidence’; the concept of ‘relevance’; ‘logical rules’; admissibility and exclusion of evidence; methods of evaluating evidence; determining the weight of evidence; the burden of proof, and degrees of proof; applicability of the common law and the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990. An understanding of meaning and use of evidence-related terminology: ‘Facts’; ‘premises’; ‘inferences’; ‘validity; ‘cogency’; ‘probative value’; ‘relevance’; ‘prejudice’; ‘information’; ‘evidence’; ‘exclusion’; ‘corroboration’; ‘weight’, and the terminology contained in s 4 of the Evidence Act 2006. The ability to apply applicable evidence admissibility tests: Relevance; propensity; veracity; hearsay; opinion; expert and identification evidence; defendants’ statements and improperly obtained evidence; privilege and confidentiality. An understanding of basic rules of evidence applicable to trial process: Eligibility and compellability of witnesses; examination of witnesses; judge and jury questions; judicial directions; general functions of the judge and jury.
This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attributes specified below:
Critically competent in a core academic discipline of their award
Students know and can critically evaluate and, where applicable, apply this knowledge to topics/issues within their majoring subject.
Students must attend one activity from each section.
This course will be taught by a mixed method approach of the on-campus lecture on Fridays, with an additional one hour lecture being recorded and available via Learn.Students are strongly encouraged to attend the on-campus lecture, watch the lecture recordings and keep up with any assigned reading. The content will be much easier to understand if regular reading and lecture attendance is undertaken, as opposed to cramming for the various pieces of assessment.
Dr Brenda Midson
The assessment will be confirmed in the first week of lectures.
Domestic fee $831.00
International fee $4,200.00
* All fees are inclusive of NZ GST or any equivalent overseas tax, and do not include any programme level discount or additional course-related expenses.
For further information see
School of Law.