What is Evidence?

We have many clients who, when facing criminal charges, tell us that there is no evidence against them. Here is an example:

In a case of sexual assault, an examination of the prosecution brief of evidence reveals that there is a statement by the complainant, being the person who alleges the sexual assault. There are no other witnesses to the alleged incident.

Many clients think that in such a situation, there is no evidence against them. Actually, the statement of the complainant is evidence, and if accepted by a jury or magistrate, of itself is sufficient for the accused to be found guilty.

What our client really means is that there is no additional evidence against them. There is no eye witness accounts, forensic evidence like fingerprints or DNA, CCTV footage, circumstantial evidence or witnesses who give evidence of prior or subsequent conversations with the accused.

This additional evidence supports or corroborates the evidence of the complainant. However, the lack of it does not mean there is no evidence against the accused. In fact, it is common that cases are based on the evidence of the complainant alone. Sexual assaults are most often alleged in circumstances where only two people are present.

Many episodes of alleged domestic violence cases are similarly based on the sole account of the complainant. Assaults, road rage, thefts and many offences against the person fall into the same category.

Criminal lawyers often call these “one on one” cases. That is the sole evidence in the case is that of the complainant against that of the accused. Do not forget that what the accused has said about the case can be used as evidence – as previously discussed, the record of interview with police is evidence in the case.

So it is a mistake to think that there is no evidence against you if the only evidence is that of the complainant. The task for the prosecution is always to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. True it is that the task is more difficult in one on one cases, but Courts and juries are often satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt on the evidence of the sole witness being the complainant.