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, including 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.
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.
You might find the following resources are useful preparation for this module:
You will be provided with the module textbook The Modern Law of Evidence 14th 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.
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 (11 'Big Sur' 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.