Corroboration in Criminal Cases

What is Corroboration

The word “Corroboration” means “support” or “confirmation.” In the specific context of the law of evidence it relates to any rule of law or practice requiring evidence to be supported by other independent evidence, in order to be sufficient to sustain a conviction (or any other given result).

The general rule

English common law has never had any general requirement that:

  • Evidence be corroborated, or
  • That the tribunal of fact be warned of the danger of acting on uncorroborated evidence.

The general rule, in both civil and criminal cases, is that any judgment or conviction may be based on the uncorroborated evidence of a single witness, or on uncorroborated evidence of any other kind. 

The two main categories of case where corroboration or care warnings still apply

Category 1: Where corroboration/care warning is required as a matter of law/obligatory

Perjury

S.13 Perjury Act 1911 provides that a person shall not be convicted of any offence under the Act “solely upon the evidence of one witness as to falsity of any statement alleged to be false.” 

Speeding

Under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, s.89 a person charged with an offence of exceeding the speed limit cannot be convicted solely on the opinion evidence of a single witness.

S. 77 PACE 1984

This section concerns cases involving confessions by a mentally handicapped person in situations where the case is not withdrawn from the jury by the judge, and where the confession is admitted in evidence (the case must depend wholly or substantially on the confession, which was not made in the presence of an independent witness). Section 77 PACE 1984  imposes a duty on the court, in certain circumstances, to warn the tribunal of fact of the dangers of convicting such a person in reliance on his confession. 

Analogous cases

These are extremely important types of cases where the requirement is not necessarily for strict corroboration (i.e. evidence from an independent source) but where law requires corroboration in the sense of either evidence from an independent source or an alternative type of evidence from the same source: 

  • Identification cases;
  • Inferences drawn from the defendant’s silence;
  • Confession by a mentally handicapped person. 

Category 2: Discretionary care warning

The effect of s.32 CJPOA 1994 was considered by the Court of Appeal in R V Makanjuola (supra), R V Easton [1995] 1 WLR 1348.

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For more information on:

  • Discretionary care warning