Full course description
This master course deals with how we may reconstruct past events for purposes of a criminal trial. What is evidence, with which purpose is evidence collected and by whom? These are some of the questions that will be raised in this course. Evidence in criminal proceedings may be collected before the actual trial or (much later) at the main hearing. What are the consequences of this division especially in view of the probative value of evidence? Attention will be paid to how conclusions can be drawn from the evidence that is on the table. Does the evidence that is presented prove that the accused committed the offence as charged? Why is the burden of proof on the prosecution and how does this relate to the presumption of innocence? What are the consequences of evidence that was illegally obtained on the one hand, but might still be reliable and relevant on the other? Evidence may be direct evidence or indirect: for example, a witness may report what she saw herself or what she heard somebody else stating (hearsay). There are different sources of evidence and different qualities that complicate both admission and evaluation of the evidence in a criminal court. In the final part of the course, you will apply the acquired knowledge by analyzing the famous English case of Rex v. Bywaters and Thompson: you will make your own assessment of the evidence provided and decide whether the accused Frederick Bywaters and Edith Thompson were guilty of murder of Edith’s husband Percy Thompson.
During the course a visit will be paid to a criminal court to see evidence gathering in practice. You will be invited to describe what you see and interpret the practice of the relevant court in line of the literature.
The goal of this course is to gain a deep understanding of the complications relating to the collection, admission, interpretation, evaluation and assessment of evidence in different criminal justice systems. Students will be able to identify that whether a fact is proof of a certain probandum may depend on several factors such as the method of analysis. Students will be taught to distinguish between the different criminal justice systems and the way these deal with evidence. In addition, the course aims at a thorough understanding of the choices that these systems made in establishing rules of evidence. The ability to apply this theoretical knowledge to actual case problems will be the outcome of this course. Lastly, students will be able to understand the meaning of evidence in the larger context of criminal proceedings and its relation with the concept of the truth, both in law as well in other disciplines.
basic knowledge of criminal procedure
- Terence Anderson, David Schum and William Twining, Analysis of Evidence, Cambridge University Press, Second Edition, November 2009