R. A. Clark


The rule against hearsay has always been surrounded by an aura of mystery and has been treated with excessive reverence by many English judges. Traditionally the English courts have been reluctant to allow any development in the exceptions to this exclusionary rule, regarding hearsay evidence as being so dangerous that even where it appears to be of a high probative calibre it should be excluded at all costs. But recent developments, both statutory and common law, have demonstrated a much more relaxed approach to this rule. In civil cases the hearsay rule has been contained in statutory form for some time. The Civil Evidence Act 1968 places the emphasis on the admissibility of hearsay evidence, both oral and written, subject to certain procedural safeguards. In criminal cases, however, the rule remains the basic exclusionary common law rule together with various common law and statutory exceptions to it. It is in relation to these exceptions that the most interesting developments are taking place and which this article seeks to examine, in particular the proposals in the Criminal Justice Bill in relation to documentary hearsay and the recent House of Lords decision on the res gestae principle in R v Andrews.