You are viewing information for England.  Change country or region.

Evidence law

Qualification dates
Start End

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.

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.

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:

What's included

You will be provided with the module textbook The Modern Law of Evidence 13th edition (Keane and McKeown) and have access to a module website, which includes:

  • an eBook version of the module textbook
  • 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.

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).

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.

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.

Course work includes:

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