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Evidence law

In this module you'll be exploring the law of evidence in England and Wales to discover what evidence can and cannot be used in a criminal or civil case and why. This includes considering the consequences of police misconduct, the dangers of witness evidence, the debates around jury trial, and the ways law and science interact. Using multimedia and a range of engaging activities, you'll investigate the dilemmas, controversies and developments in this vital area.

Modules count towards OU qualifications

OU qualifications are modular in structure; the credits from this undergraduate module could count towards a certificate of higher education, diploma of higher education, foundation degree or honours degree.

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Module

Module code
W250
Credits

Credits

  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
30
Study level
Across the UK, there are two parallel frameworks for higher education qualifications, the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ) and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). These define a hierarchy of levels and describe the achievement expected at each level. The information provided shows how OU module levels correspond to these frameworks.
OU SCQF FHEQ
2 9 5
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
See Entry requirements

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What you will study

The module begins by introducing you to the key terms and concepts relating to the law of evidence. You'll learn what can be proved without evidence, the different kinds of evidence, and the burden and standard of proof.

You'll explore what happens when confessions and evidence are obtained as a result of police misconduct. The legal rules are considered in their wider context. For example, why do people confess to crimes they did not commit? Should the courts discipline the police? Do they appropriately balance disapproval of misconduct with a fair trial outcome?

Some types of evidence pose particular risks of injustice and in this module you'll be exploring hearsay evidence, character evidence, and eyewitness identifications. You'll find out why they are risky, how the law of evidence seeks to balance those risks, and consider whether it succeeds. Witness evidence is considered in detail and this includes learning who can be a witness, whether they can choose not to attend court and how vulnerable witnesses are protected in court. You'll discover the process of giving evidence and what rules govern the ways in which lawyers can question witnesses.

The final part of the module considers two controversial areas. Expert evidence is increasingly central to cases but can lead to miscarriages of justice if the expert or the court make a mistake. You'll explore the roles of expert witnesses, the rules governing their use, and how these operate in practice. Finally, the roles of judges and juries are reviewed and some of the major controversies are explored before you put your knowledge of evidence law into practice with an in-depth activity.

You will learn

By studying this module you'll learn:

  • the role of evidence law
  • the rules of evidence and how they are applied in court
  • the importance of the law of evidence and key critiques of its aims and effects.
  • how to work with different kinds of data; conduct legal research; and evaluate legal information.

Vocational relevance

The law of evidence is an important aspect of legal practice in England and Wales. It is a compulsory undergraduate subject for some jurisdictions outside England and Wales. The subject knowledge and skills will prepare you for any career in law.

If you are intending to study this module as part of the Bachelor of Laws (LLB), and hope to enter the legal professions, you should read our Careers in Law information. There are different entry requirements into the legal professions in England and Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. It is your responsibility to ensure you meet these requirements.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

Throughout your module studies, you’ll get help and support from your assigned module tutor. They’ll help you by:

  • marking your assignments (TMAs) and providing detailed feedback for you to improve.
  • guiding you to additional learning resources.
  • providing individual guidance, whether that’s for general study skills or specific module content.
  • facilitating online discussions between your fellow students, in the dedicated module and tutor group forums.

Module tutors also run online tutorials throughout the module. Where possible, recordings of online tutorials will be made available to students. While these tutorials won’t be compulsory for you to complete the module, you’re strongly encouraged to take part.

Assessment

The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You must use the online eTMA system to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs).

Future availability

Evidence law starts once a year – in February. This page describes the module that will start in February 2023. We expect it to start for the last time in February 2030.

Regulations

As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

    Course work includes:

    2 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
    1 Interactive computer-marked assignment (iCMA)
    End-of-module assessment
    No residential school


    Entry requirements

    If you are new to study at university level, or are returning after some time, we recommend that you first study an OU level 1 law module such as Criminal law and the courts (W111) or Civil justice and tort law (W112), unless you are a graduate entry student.

    If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

    Preparatory work

    You might find the following resources are useful preparation for this module:

    Register

    Start End England fee Register
    04 Feb 2023 Sep 2023 £1614.00

    Registration closes 12/01/23 (places subject to availability)

    Register
    This module is expected to start for the last time in February 2030.

    Additional Costs

    Study costs

    There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as set books, a computer and internet access.

    If your income is not more than £25,000 or you are in receipt of a qualifying benefit, you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after your module has started.

    Ways to pay for this module

    Open University Student Budget Account

    The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

    You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

    • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
    • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your monthly fee and number of instalments based on the cost of the module you are studying. APR 5.1% representative.

    Joint loan applications

    If you feel you would be unable to obtain an OUSBA loan on your own due to credit history or affordability issues, OUSBA offers the option to apply for a joint loan application with a third party. For example, your husband, wife, partner, parent, sibling or friend. In such cases, OUSBA will be required to carry out additional affordability checks separately and/or collectively for both joint applicants who will be jointly and severally liable for loan repayments.

    As additional affordability checks are required when processing joint loan applications, unfortunately, an instant decision cannot be given. On average the processing time for a joint loan application is five working days from receipt of the required documentation.

    Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).  

    Employer sponsorship

    Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU courses are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to complete. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

    More than one in ten OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the module you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

    • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
    • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your module.  

    Credit/debit card

    You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

    We accept American Express, Mastercard, Visa and Visa Electron. 

    Mixed payments

    We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. For example, you may wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Account (OUSBA).


    Please note: your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and therefore the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fees and funding information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2023. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation and the University's strategic approach to fees. 

    This information was provided on 23/05/2022.

    What's included

    You’ll have access to a module website, which includes:

    • a week-by-week study planner
    • course-specific module materials
    • audio and video content
    • assignment details and submission section
    • online tutorial access and tutor support.

    Computing requirements

    You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11), or macOS (10.15 or higher).

    Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

    To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

    Our module websites comply with web standards, and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

    Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.

    It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop as described above.

    If you have a disability

    The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying W250 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

    To find out more about what kind of support and adjustments might be available, contact us or visit our Disability support website.