Dalhousie Law Journal


J. A. Coutts


Law reform, evidence, criminal cases


Events surrounding the recent proposals for the reform of the English law of evidence in criminal cases may be thought to afford a cautionary tale, indicating the wrong way to engage in public debate upon such matters. In 1964, the Home Secretary asked the Criminal Law Revision Committee to review the law of evidence in criminal cases. Before its Report1 was published (some eight years later), and, indeed, before the Home Secretary had himself received it, there occurred a flood of critical comment in the Press and on radio and television, and questions in Parliament, on what were thought (not altogether accurately) to be the main recommendations about to be made. Those very critics who had thus jumped the gun then proceeded to blame the Committee itself for what had happened, on the ground that its work had not been sufficiently 'open' to the public. This seems to be less than fair to the Committee, since its task was publicised in the Press and in Parliament and the public were invited to comment; the Committee consulted those bodies likely to be interested and obtained the assistance of experts from overseas (among whom Professors Edwards, Friedland and Tollefson of Canada are mentioned in the Report).

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