LAWS307-17S2 (C) Semester Two 2017

The Principles of Evidence

15 points

Start Date: Monday, 17 July 2017
End Date: Sunday, 19 November 2017
Withdrawal Dates
Last Day to withdraw from this course:
  • Without financial penalty (full fee refund): Friday, 28 July 2017
  • Without academic penalty (including no fee refund): Friday, 13 October 2017


The course aims to provide a sound academic grounding in key principles of the law of evidence. It will examine the key topics of relevance, reliability, probative value, illegitimate prejudice, the influence of human rights, burden of proof, rules of inadmissibility (including hearsay, veracity and propensity and privilege), and trial procedure. In focusing on these key aspects of the law of evidence this course will adopt a strong principle based approach in which the theoretical underpinnings of the development of the law will be examined and discussed. The sole focus of the course will not necessarily be on New Zealand's Evidence Act 2006 but will seek to place such provisions in the context of both theoretical and comparative international approaches.

The primary function of the law of Evidence is to govern how information (‘facts’) is admitted or excluded as evidence in courts of law and, in some cases, other tribunals. A secondary function is how to deal with evidence once admitted at court.

Most of the New Zealand laws and regulations relating to ‘evidence’ are covered by the Evidence Act 69 of 2006, and the Evidence Regulations 2007. However, some topics are not covered by the Evidence Act 2006, such as the functions of the judge and jury; the burden of proof and degrees of proof; Estoppel; the Parol Evidence Rule and a number of practical trial conventions and practices.

There is a perception that the law of Evidence is only relevant to trial practitioners and judges. This view is erroneous, since every single personal or business transaction has the potential for conflict and dispute, resulting in ultimate dispute resolution by a criminal or civil court, or tribunal.
(The practical application of dispute resolution by court trials is covered in the limited entry course Trial Advocacy LAWS359">, and the course Principles of Evidence LAWS307 or CJRU 308"> is a prerequisite for admission to this course.)

Therefore, an awareness of the information needed to resolve disputes, and the rules to make this information admissible and persuasive in court, should be understood by all lawyers, and indeed also business people and private individuals.

The aim is to have a conceptual understanding of how the Law of Evidence works in practice.

Learning Outcomes

  • On completion of the course, students will be expected to have attained the following learning outcomes:  

  •  An understanding of core concepts of Evidence: The concept of ‘evidence’; The concept of ‘relevance’; ‘logical rules’; Admissibility and exclusion of evidence; Methods of evaluating evidence; Determining the weight of evidence; The burden of proof, and degrees of proof; Interpreting the Evidence Act 2006; Applicability of the Common Law and NZ Bill of Rights Act 1990; Knowledge of the contents of the 2015 Evidence Amendment Bill.

  •  An understanding of meaning and use of evidence-related terminology: ‘Facts’; ‘premises’; ‘inferences’; ‘validity; ‘cogency’;  ‘relevance’; ‘prejudice’; ‘information’; ‘evidence’; ‘exclusion’; ‘corroboration’; ‘weight’, and the terminology contained in s 4: ‘Interpretation’,  of the Evidence Act 2006.

  •  The ability to apply applicable evidence admissibility tests: Relevance; Propensity; Veracity; Hearsay; Opinion; Expert opinion; Improperly-obtained evidence; Privilege and Confidentiality.

  •  An understanding of basic rules of evidence applicable to trials: Eligibility and Compellability of witnesses; Use of defendants’ statements; Identification; Examination  of witnesses: Evidence –in – chief; Cross-examination; Re-examination; Hostile witnesses; Further evidence; Judge and jury questions; Judicial directions; General functions of the judge and jury; Evidence of foreign law.

  •  An understanding of Proof: Burden of Proof; Degrees of Proof; Presumptions; Basic fact analysis and trial preparation.

  •  An introduction to miscellaneous topics: Identification evidence; Estoppel; Extrinsic Evidence; Evidence taken overseas for use in NZ criminal courts; Technology-assisted truth verification.


(i) LAWS101; and (ii) LAWS110


LAWS316, CRJU308


Equivalent Courses

Course Coordinator / Lecturer

Elisabeth McDonald


Assessment Due Date Percentage 
In-Class Test 27 Jul 2017 15%
Take Home Test 15 Sep 2017 35%
Final Exam 50%

The assessment will be confirmed in the first week of lectures.

Indicative Fees

Domestic fee $775.00

International fee $3,525.00

* All fees are inclusive of NZ GST or any equivalent overseas tax, and do not include any programme level discount or additional course-related expenses.

For further information see Faculty of Law .

All LAWS307 Occurrences

  • LAWS307-17S2 (C) Semester Two 2017