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The Modern Law of Evidence
  1. L. Jonathan Cohen
  2. Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt in Criminal Trials
  3. What is beyond a reasonable doubt?
  4. 3. Understand proof beyond a reasonable doubt

L. Jonathan Cohen

The finding of reasonable doubt "is not the same as deciding in any positive way that [the allegations] never happened. Examples and illustrations are permissible in describing the standard of BARD as long as it does not takeaway the right to reach their own conclusions. By giving illustrations it risks creating the impression that the decision "can be made on the same basis as would any decision made in the course of their daily routines", which tends to move the standard closer to one of "probability".

A reasonable doubt cannot be based on "speculation or conjecture". The Crown has no burden to "negativing every conjecture to which circumstantial evidence might be consistent with the innocence of the accused. The absence of evidence due to the police's failure to take investigative steps will sometimes be an important consideration in whether the Crown has proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

The defence is permitted to elicit evidence from witnesses of potential inadequacies in the investigation. Oversights in an investigation "can be particularly important where no defence evidence is called. From Criminal Law Notebook.

Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt in Criminal Trials

The additional instructions to the jury set out in Lifchus as to the meaning and appropriate manner of determining the existence of a reasonable doubt serve to define the space between absolute certainty and proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Rather, it is to be applied to the evidence as a whole for the purpose of determining whether each of the necessary elements of an offence has been established.

There will usually be no other eye-witnesses. There will often be no physical or other corroborative evidence.

What is beyond a reasonable doubt?

For that reason, a judge is frequently required to scrutinize the testimony of a complainant to determine whether, based on that evidence alone, the guilt of an accused has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Categories : Level Zero Evidence. Navigation menu Personal tools. Namespaces Page Discussion. Views Read View source View history.

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Navigation Main page Random page Help. PM: No.

3. Understand proof beyond a reasonable doubt

PM: Well, at the very least it means that the risk of convicting the innocent is higher than it should be. Finding the facts is an exercise that only rarely depends on precise degrees of probability, an example being facts derived from DNA evidence. Normally jurors will simply not have enough data to find facts on the basis of precise percentages.

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Featured image credit: Unnamed by MichaelDBeckwith. He is co-author of The Modern Law of Evidence , an authoritative text that has been cited worldwide. Our Privacy Policy sets out how Oxford University Press handles your personal information, and your rights to object to your personal information being used for marketing to you or being processed as part of our business activities.

We will only use your personal information to register you for OUPblog articles. Or subscribe to articles in the subject area by email or RSS. Any sensible new language for a guilty verdict may work no better in actual use than the current one. This fruitless outcome of a change can be forestalled. Psychologists experiment with legal practices. The same cases can be presented to mock jurors divided into groups. Each group uses a different guilty standard to decide the same case.

The results for the different groups can be compared.