Anonymity and hearsay: Court of Appeal clarity

Hearsay evidence is a statement, made otherwise than by a witness giving his own personal account, which is relied upon in court to prove the truth of the matters stated. Hearsay evidence may be first hand (when a witness relates what he directly heard someone else say) or it may be second hand (or even more distant) (when the witness relates what he was told that someone else said).

It has long been recognised by the courts that there will be instances in which justice requires that hearsay evidence can be adduced. For example, a case where a person with information or knowledge which is crucial to the full and fair trial of a case can no longer be contacted or for some other important reason is not able or willing to appear in court, but where another person is able and willing to testify as to what the former has said. 

However, to avoid the obvious risks associated with a ‘he said/she said’ approach, English law imposes certain safeguards before hearsay evidence can be relied upon. In particular, section 4 of the Civil Evidence Act 1995 requires the court to have regard to various factors when assessing the weight, if any, to be given to hearsay evidence…

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